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Guide to the Tomie Arai and Legan Wong Papers MSS.439


Fales Library and Special Collections

Collection processed by Stacey Flatt

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 07, 2021
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Edited by Amy C. Vo to change legacy description about the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II  , December 2020

Biographical Note

Tomie Arai (1949- ) was born in New York City and is a third generation Japanese American. She has been creating and exhibiting her artwork since the 1960s. In the 1970s she worked at the Basement Workshop on various projects and the Cityarts Workshop, where she worked as a resource center coordinator and mural director. Arai then worked as a freelance graphic artist for Alan Okada of Citibank, creating posters, brochures and promotional materials for community groups as part of Citibank's Graphic Support program. Arai has been involved in many community-based art projects, creating site-specific public works of art commissioned by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs' Percent for Art Program, the General Services Administration of the Federal Government, and the NYC MTA Arts for Transit Program.

As an Asian American activist she has participated in the political movements since the 1960s and continues her involvement through organizations including the Museum of Chinese in the Americas. She also served as NYU Asian/Pacific/American Institute's first Artist-in-Residence in 1997-1998 and in 2005.

Biographical Note

Legan Wong (1951- ) was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Chinese immigrant parents. Wong was active in the New York Asian American Movement during the 1970s and 1980s. From 1971 to 1973, he served as a coordinator for the Basement Workshop and was also active in the Asian American Resource Center.

While Wong was an undergraduate at Queens College and later as an adjunct lecturer at Hunter College, he worked to promote the development and expansion of Asian American Studies. Wong was eventually hired at Hunter College to teach a course called  The Asian American Experience, a historical and contemporary examination of the experiences of Asians in America. Wong was a member of Asians in the Spirit of the Indo-Chinese (ASI) and Asian Americans for Equal Employment (AAFEE), which focused on workers' rights, racism, and police brutality. Wong also worked as a researcher and freelance writer for the Council on Interracial Books for Children. Between 1982 and 1985, Wong worked as one of the executive producers of East West World Records. The record company produced the album  Back to Back and  Visions and Dreams.

Wong was involved in a number of local community groups, including the Asian Tactical Theatre, a collective of Asian American activists involved in helping to develop the Asian American cultural front of the larger Asian American Movement. Wong was also a member of Soh Daiko, a taiko drum performance group based at the New York Buddhist Church, and a member of a team in the Asian American Softball League in New York.