Albert Ting is an Oakland, CA native who's been in DC since 2002; we dig him not only for his excellent, city-centric Instagram (in "awwww's." he was one of the very first to contribute to the #aCreativeDC feed back in early 2015), but for his consistent commitment to finding, creating, and being part of various DC creative communities. We're focusing today's C O N V O on his membership in The Freer|Sackler Galleries' Silk Road Society – located next to the Smithsonian Castle and flanked by the Enid A. Haupt Garden, the F|S is Smithsonian's museum of Asian Art, and the Silk Road Society? We'll let Albert fill us in:
What's the vision behind the Silk Road Society, and what led you to join? The goal is to gather a group of smart, well-cultured creatives who are interested in exploring classical and contemporary art of Asia and the Middle East, as well as the cultures of the regions the galleries represent. A friend of mine who is a gallery gal invited me to a Silk Road Society event about four years ago, and I was hooked! After living and working in Japan for a brief 2 year stint between 2007 and 2009, I had amassed quite a collection of Japanese ukiyo-e (woodblock print) artwork as well as some antiques that I found during my weekly jaunts through antique shops and festivals held outside shrines and temples throughout Kyoto. Silk Road was my gateway to the Smithsonian's collection of Japanese art, which I personally find fascinating.
What’s been the most fulfilling aspect of membership? People attend Silk Road Society events for different reasons. Some people enjoy the social aspect of networking and sharing wine in a gallery setting; other people love the chance to meet face-to-face with artists and curators. For me, as an Advisory Board Member, I find my involvement as a small way to support the art world while having fun discovering new art with a group of friends I have a lot in common with – people who have the desire to learn and see different perspectives of the world, without even having to leave DC!
This past year, we attended exclusive curator-led tours at the Freer|Sackler and at local DC galleries. We went to the Textile Museum and discovered Qing Dynasty China through the lens of John Thomson, and in January, we saw masterpieces of Japanese art in the Freer | Sackler exhibit, Sōtatsu: Making Waves. We also participated in cultural events at local embassies around town, including a private tour of the Embassy of Uzbekhistan and the Ippakutei Japanese tea house at the Embassy of Japan. The Silk Road Society also sponsors gallery and studio talks in support of local emerging artists, like performance artist and photographer Naoko Wowsugi, Hedieh Ilchi, whose work explores her cultural identity as an Iranian-American immigrant, Linling Lu, whose colorful and large circle paintings have been seen at City Center DC and Hemphill Fine Arts gallery, and Nara Park, a Hamiltonian Gallery fellow and sculptor.
You just came back from the Society’s Asia Week in New York. What exhibits did you all check out? Asia Week is definitely the highlight of my SRS experience each year! Last month, a group of Silk Road Society members headed to New York for an exciting array of weekend programs (it was sold-out!). We toured the new Met Breuer (housed in the former location of the Whitney Museum) before it opened to the public, we explored contemporary Japanese art at the Onishi Gallery and the Joan Mirviss Gallery, we viewed lacquerware at the Erik Thomsen Gallery, and we had a private viewing of ancient Chinese treasures at the Gagosian Gallery. A Friend of the Smithsonian graciously hosted a lunch for us at the University Club, and our evening was topped off with a private tour (with an open bar, haha) at Sotheby’s.
Tell us about some of the upcoming events or exhibitions that we should look out for? We have so much coming up - honestly, I’ve never been in a group that provided so much valuable programs to its members. This week, we are checking out the Korean Artist Soomin Ham at Flashpoint Gallery. In April, David Hogge is giving an exclusive tour of the archives at the Freer | Sackler Museum. In May, we are planning to tour the current F|S exhibit, Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan, which highlights the culture and heritage of Kabul. And this July, SRS is hosting a Perspectives reception at the Freer|Sackler with artist Michael Joo.
This is just one community you're part of - you're also an active member in IGDC. Any others? And can you talk about the role/importance of communities like this in DC, from your perspective at least? IGDC is my core community in DC - one that I and many others call "IGDC Family." Through IGDC meetups and other events, I've made many good friends in DC. I probably meet with people from the community at least twice a week. Many of them are creatives focused on different issues, spanning from food photography to women entrepreneurship to wood crafting. The group is full of endlessly fascinating, energetic, and nice people I am proud to call my friends.
[As a Manager of Strategic Initiatives on the Global Government Affairs & Policy team at General Electric] I am a member of GE Volunteers as well as two affinity groups (Asian Pacific American Forum) and the LGBTA GE Alliance. I take great pride working for a company that devotes resources to seeking, retaining, and developing leaders from diverse background, and at the same time encourages employees to give back to their local communities.
In your exploration of people both here and abroad, what commonalities have you found?
Haha, that’s a tough question. I do love taking photos of people, and DC is full of people from all walks of life. I feel we are quite an international city. People are endlessly interesting, and as the world changes, the ways people interact with their surroundings through technology changes. Whether we like it or not, most of us are never without our mobile devices or laptops, our Snapchat or Instagram, and we are constantly “plugged in”. Besides a focus on people as photographic subjects, you might find, if you check out my Instagram feed or online portfolio, is that I love exploring places with rich cultural traditions, beautiful modern architectural design, and historic significance – places like Barcelona, Madrid, New York, Tokyo, and, of course, DC! Traveling is inspiring to me.
Most instagrammable part of The Freer|Sackler?
That's a good question. The Freer is closed for renovation through 2017, but the Sackler is still open and has lots of lovely spaces. At the Sackler, I would say it's the suspended sculpture called "Monkeys Grasp for the Moon," which follows the museumgoer as they walk down the steps to the inner sanctum. The work is made up of wood pieces, each representing the word "monkey" in a different language, each piece linked to one another forming a chain that reaches all the way to the bottom of the museum.
Interview conducted by Savannah Harris
all photos by Albert Ting | @pootie_ting
To learn more about the membership perks for joining the Silk Road Society, you can sign up on the website or contact Whitney Kellaher, the SRS Coordinator, at KellaherWJ@si.edu.