Interviewed May 21, 2020

The final interviewee of “Meet ACC’s Directors” series needs no introduction: Miho Walsh, Executive Director of the Asian Cultural Council.

Miho shares a window into her life and a view of her surroundings. “I live in Harlem in New York City...and there’s an amazing work of art right outside my window.” The work in question is the bronze sculpture Invisible Man: A Memorial to Ralph Ellison by acclaimed sculptor and printmaker Elizabeth Catlett.

Ralph Ellison, the author, critic, and scholar of many important works, including his well-known novel Invisible Man, had lived in the building across the street from the early 1950s until his death in 1994. Through Ellison’s story and Catlett’s sculpture, Miho says, “I’ve been able to teach my kids about what it means to be invisible, and the plight of so many people who are not seen in the world.”

“In terms of cultural exchange,” she continues, “the idea of making the invisible, visible happens through our grantees and artists.” How do we support them in this? In the field of cultural exchange, she says, “we often talk about ‘building bridges’...but I think ‘building bridges’ is this idea from point A to point B, a sort of path between two separate entities. For ACC, a more appropriate image, or analogy, is the idea of scaffolding.”

“When you want to reinforce something, when you want to make something stronger, when you want to fix something...you put it under scaffolding.” Scaffolding is everywhere in New York City, case in point illustrated by the zigzag metal lines just outside Miho’s window. “When I look at scaffolding,” she says, “and I see all of these connections that hold up and give support to a structure, I think of ACC.”

“ACC has created, supported, and really enabled about 6,000 exchanges in the last almost 60 years,” Miho explains, “And every time we connect someone with another across borders, across ideas, across fields, I feel like we build a pipe in the scaffolding. Especially in these times, when there’s so much hatred, bigotry, discrimination, xenophobia, isolation, and lack of connection, the world is a fragile place, and it needs scaffolding.” Hard hats on, work in progress signs up, ACC and our global network of grantees build connections soldered by mutual understanding, empathy, and respect, scaffolding this fragile world.

 

Photo of Invisible Man: A Memorial to Ralph Ellison from nycgovparks.org