Jasmine's Cookie Art Joins National Portrait Gallery at the Heinz History Center
The Heinz History Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is currently hosting works from the National Portrait Gallery that feature individuals "who exemplify the innovations, challenges, and motivations that have shaped" the Pittsburgh region. The Portraits of Pittsburgh exhibit will run through the beginning of January 2021, and now you can also see Jasmine's cookie portraits joining the collection!
From the Heinz History Center website:
"More than just paintings on a wall, the Portraits of Pittsburgh exhibition examines how portraiture identifies and questions changing beliefs about who is important in American culture. As such, the exhibit assesses which prominent Pittsburghers aren’t among the National Portrait Gallery’s collection and asks visitors the important question: Who do you think should be included?"
Jasmine's cookie activism is driven by the same type of question: What people and groups are missing, misrepresented, and/or underrepresented in our media and curriculum, and why?
With this in mind, and with the specific opportunity to showcase works alongside the Portraits of Pittsburgh exhibit, Jasmine has chosen to feature the portraits of some of Pittsburgh's influential Asian American and Pacific Islanders:
Karen Fung Yee (Chinese American); Parents in photo frame, Hoy Fung and Lorraine Christoff
Karen Fung Yee (1938-2019) was treasured as the beloved “godmother” of Pittsburgh’s Chinese American community. Yee served as the first female president of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Organization for Chinese Americans (now known as OCA). A social worker and lifelong educator who taught Chinese languages, cuisine, and Japanese flower arrangement, Yee also served as the President of the Ikebana International Pittsburgh Chapter.
Yee was born and raised in Bellevue, where she worked alongside her siblings at her father's restaurant, Bellevue Tea Garden, one of the first Chinese restaurants in the area established in 1926. Her father, Hoy Fung, was not only one of the first Chinese restaurateurs of the north borough but was also one of the original donors of the Chinese Nationality Room at the University of Pittsburgh during the 1930s. Yee's mother, Lorraine Christoff, was a Hungarian American woman, and the interracial marriage between her parents was considered against the norm. "But my parents were so well-loved and respected in the borough that it was seldom brought up," Yee noted in a 2003 Trib article. Hoy passed away at the ripe age of 99, while Lorraine passed earlier on in 1995.
Yee continued to carry the torch that was passed onto her by her father and sat on both the University of Pittsburgh's Nationality Rooms Council and served as chairwoman of the Chinese Nationality Room Committee.
I had only briefly crossed paths with Karen when I was involved with OCA Pittsburgh several years ago. Unfortunately, I learned more about her and her family history after her passing. It was a remarkable unraveling to research her generational roots in this city, and I'm remorseful that I didn't get a chance to know her more personally in life. Her legacy is a reminder that AAPI leaders and stories truly abound in this city. (Jasmine)
Marian Lien (Taiwanese American)
Marian Lien has played a critical role in bridging the gap between first generation Asian immigrants and second+ generation Asian Americans in the city of Pittsburgh. An alumnus of the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, Lien currently works as the Director for Inclusion and Global Awareness at St. Edmund's Academy, serves as the President of the Pittsburgh Chapter of OCA, and as a Commissioner on PA Governor Tom Wolf's Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. Lien's service to Pittsburgh has included leadership roles in the Greater Pittsburgh’s YMCA Committee for Diversity, Inclusion and Global Centers of Excellence (DIG), the City of Pittsburgh’s Commission for Human Relations, and Mayor Bill Peduto's Welcoming Pittsburgh initiative. As the former Executive Director of Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition, Lien helped to spearhead the neighborhood's Lunar New Year parade since 2016, which is now enjoyed by thousands across the city every year. Most recently, Lien has also become a leading voice against rising anti-Asian racism that has resulted from the xenophobic sentiments encouraged by Trump's administration labeling the COVID-19 pandemic as the "Chinese Virus."
Lien has also supported Jasmine as a personal mentor for a number of years and helped to exhibit her cookie art at Pittsburgh's City County Building.
I remember being so excited when I first met Marian; it was electric for me to learn that a leader of my neighorhood of Squirrel Hill was an Asian American woman. She has always advocated for me, reaffirmed my sense of value and self-worth, and encouraged my service to both the local and national community with a conscious awareness and honoring of my Asian American identity. The amount of work she puts into others is honestly on a superhero level; she is both a visionary and a dedicated worker who dreams up the best for our community and makes it all happen. (Jasmine)
Bibhuti Aryal (Nepalese American)
Bibhuti Aryal is the President and Co-founder of Rukmini Foundation, a nonprofit that works to provide quality education to girls in Nepal in order to combat child marriage and gender inequality. One of the main inspirations for the organization is Aryal's mother, Laxmi, who was the first woman in her family to receive an education, earning her Master's Degree in Public Policy at the University of Pittsburgh.
The Nepalese-Bhutanese community is one of the largest refugee groups in Pittsburgh. Aryal serves as one of its informal leaders, building and bridging connections within and throughout the city of Pittsburgh with opportunities in various sectors, including business and art. In response to the 2015 earthquake that tragically took the lives of over 4,400 in Nepal, Aryal helped organize a local vigil and fundraising efforts.
Aryal has also served as the Chair of Governor Tom Wolf’s Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs.
I'm not only honored to know Bibhuti, but I also feel especially honored to have met his mother. I'll never forget how she invited several of us into her home and taught us how to make momos - traditional Nepalese dumplings - after one of their annual fundraising events. Bibhuti and his mother are both quiet, strong forces in Pittsburgh's AAPI community and beyond that deserve more public recognition for their work and leadership. (Jasmine)
Leah Lizarondo (Filipino American)
Leah Lizarondo is the Co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, an organization that has been called the "Uber of food recovery." Her organization utilizes technology to prevent food waste by linking distribution volunteers to retailers with excess food. In just five years, the nonprofit has helped redirect over 9 million meals over 6 North American cities. Lizarondo's vision is to go global and reach 100 cities by 2030. Born and raised in the Philippines, Lizarondo moved to Pittsburgh and earned her Master's Degree in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University. Her passion for food and health was originally communicated through her blog and Pittsburgh Magazine column, The Brazen Kitchen, which won the 2013 National City & Regional Magazine Awards. Lizarondo's inspiring work has been featured nationally in NPR, Oprah.com, Fast Company, etc. She was named "Pittsburgher of the Year" in 2018 by Pittsburgh City Paper, and most recently was awarded as a 2020 Global Leadership Awards Honoree by Vital Voices.
Leah is my #WCW every day of the week. Where and how do I even start to describe her badassery? She is one of the first Asian American women leaders I learned about right as 412 Food Rescue was just starting out, and she is one of the first portraits I created that started off my own journey of activism in cookies. Despite her being a real life super shero changing the world, she still somehow takes the time to message me to check if her Asian American sister is thriving. (Jasmine)
Dr. Timothy H. Wong (Chinese Canadian)
Dr. Timothy H. Wong is the founder of iHealth Clinic. Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Wong came to Pittsburgh for a three-year residency at UPMC Shadyside Hospital before becoming a staff physician at Indiana Regional Medical Center (IRMC), where he served as director of quality for five years. It was in that role where he regularly came face-to-face with the problematic and unnecessary barriers posed by health insurance. Believing the system could be better, Wong decided to set up a micro-practice in Pittsburgh's neighborhood of East Liberty, where he charges patients a flat rate of $35 per medical issue regardless of insurance. Featured in NPR, Bloomberg, and USA Today, Dr. Wong is credited as a pioneer of Direct Access Primary Care, which provides a simple yet revolutionary solution to eliminating the cumbersome hurdles of America's healthcare system.
Like many others in Pittsburgh, I learned of Dr. Timothy Wong's work through the local and then national news. Pittsburgh is incredibly fortunate to have a medical pioneer for the people as part of its community. Having the capacity to only choose six portraits for the Portraits of Pittsburgh exhibit was very challenging, but Dr. Wong was one of the first people who came to mind; I've been wanting to honor him in cookie form ever since learning about his practice. (Jasmine)
Wasi Mohamed (Asian Indian American)
Wasi Mohamed is a civil rights activist who currently works as the Senior Policy Officer at The Pittsburgh Foundation. Mohamed previously served as the Executive Director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, where he attracted national attention as a religious leader after helping to raise over $70,000 within a day of the 2019 Tree of Life mass shooting. Mohamed notably offered to stand outside synagogues during services for protection if needed, exemplifying unity during times of poisonous rhetoric. Mohamed also serves as the Chair of PA Governor Tom Wolf's Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs and was elected to the ACLU Pennsylvania State Board of Directors in 2018. Mohamed was also featured in CNN's docuseries, United Shades of America: “Pittsburgh is simultaneously one of ‘America’s most livable cities’ and one of the worst cities in America for Black people. There is this narrative of renaissance and revival and another narrative of exclusion and racism.”
I don't know anyone who has met Wasi and didn't immediately feel a sense of kinship. He is one of the most sincere and most humble people you will ever be blessed to meet. He clearly carries the presence of a strong and charismatic leader yet also disarms you with the kindest of smiles. I think Wasi is truly the type of leader we are all yearning for in Pittsburgh and beyond; one who can both challenge and unify with grace and humility. (Jasmine)