LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Hundreds rang in the Year of the Rabbit at Mellwood Art Center on Saturday as part of the Asia Institute-Crane House's Lunar New Year celebration.
The event featured a six-course meal of elevated modern Asian cuisine and signature drinks, sake and soju tastings, tea tastings and Asian art expression.
"It's like the Met Gala of the Asian community here," Joel Buno, executive director of the Asia Institute-Crane House, said. "[It] is the biggest celebration in Asia."
The celebration spread out across the Metro as a silent auction took place and River Lotus Lion dancers performed.
"This is a safe space. As safe as it can get," Jessica Lee, a longtime Crane House member said. "Just knowing we're able to be there for each other, cheer each other on [and] be a great support system."
Throughout the night, anticipation mounted, but it also came with a stark realization for event organizers who, just weeks ago, watched untimely tragedy unfold from afar.
"Especially with what happened in California, we're looking for an opportunity for our community to heal," Buno said. "It definitely does change the way we put on this event this year."
On Jan. 23, in Monterey Park, a gunman opened fire in a dance studio, shortly after Lunar New Year celebrations, killing 11 people, and injuring nine more.
Less than 48 hours later, a gunman in Northern California shot eight fellow farmworkers, killing seven, at mushroom farms in Half Moon Bay.
"The assailants were both older, Asian immigrants, so that's why it's important to support the Crane House," Buno said. "Because our work deals directly with helping those older, Asian immigrants."
For organizers, it spurred reconsiderations of event planning, as they heightened security.
"Unfortunate things happen all the time," Lee said. "I think it just gives a greater voice for us to speak out against it, but also to come together and grow stronger together."
That togetherness was at the heart of Saturday's gathering. While hesitant, members knew Saturday would be a continuation of a decades long goal of making a more diverse Metro.
"We are the fastest growing minority group per the Census Bureau," Buno said. "Hopefully in the future our gala will just grow and we'll be able to be that safe space."
Proceeds benefit Asia Institute-Crane House educational initiatives like the Teach Asia Program, Startalk Summer Mandarin Camp, exhibitions, lectures, workshops and more.
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