Thank you

Building Cultural Empathy

A Message from the Director
In the first week of November, I sent the following message to Asian Art Museum staff, reminding them—no matter what happened on Election Day—the museum's purpose and role in the community is probably more relevant and essential than ever. Thank you, museum family and friends, for helping us to be that "bridge to understanding."

Dear Colleagues,

Allow to me share an idea with you, something inspired by my desire to find a silver lining of meaning in the current maelstrom of the presidential campaign.

I am deeply troubled by the messages of exclusion and prejudice surfaced across the country over recent months. Regardless of who wins next week, the echo of those deeply hurtful messages will remain.

As a museum of Asian art, representing art and cultures of 60% of the world's population, what role can we play in this pivotal moment for human relations? How can this museum best serve fellow Americans and citizens of the world in the face of this standoff between exclusion and prejudice, and inclusion and acceptance?

For one, we should make it clear that the Asian Art Museum stands firmly on the side of inclusion, global consciousness, and cultural empathy. We are a museum for all. We don't deny entry to those who don't look like us, think like us, or act like us. Not only are our doors open to all, but we actively pursue ways to make our museum more accessible to more people. In our October staff meeting, I shared examples of these "inclusive innovations," from wayfinding signs featuring universal symbols to digital tools offering information in multiple languages.

We offer a safe place for discovery, insight and greater understanding of people; of their influences, beliefs and values. We do this through the lens of Asian art and culture. We invite all to explore the differences and the similarities between people, and between cultures, and to celebrate how these values are reflected in art from ancient times to today. Exposure and knowledge are empowering tools in countering fear of the unfamiliar or different.

Can an art museum engender kinder and more respectful human interactions? Can it foster empathy and reduce hate? I believe our museum absolutely can. I’d like to hear what you think.

Jay Xu, PhD
Director and Chief Executive Officer
Asian Art Museum

What do we mean when we say this is a museum "for all"?