By Frances Wang

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – During Art Basel 2021 in Miami, Asian American artists were celebrated and recognized in a first-of-its-kind event at the Michelin-starred COTE Miami Korean Steakhouse.

The event was a collaboration between Gold House and esteemed art advisor Kelly Huang to debut the Gold Art Prize.

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Gold House is a nonprofit collective of Asian & Pacific Islander founders, creatives, and leaders.

Five Asian American artists were awarded the inaugural prize and a $25,000 cash reward.

Maia Ruth Lee from Colorado was one of this year’s winners.

“I like to focus on the abstract and difficult experiences that diasporas communities go through,” explained Lee.

“Language can be lost in translation.”

“This complicated dual dynamic between holding things we hate and holding things we love, fighting against and fighting for, is quintessentially Asian American,” said Bing Chen, President of Gold House.

For many, the emotion and pain felt during a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and xenophobia was expressed through a further push for representation and reliance on community.

New FBI data revealed these crimes increased more than 73% in just 2020.

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“Asian American voices should be included in that dialogue just as much as anyone else’s voices should be,” said Huang.

“Why not bring together community support to bring more visibility to those artists, amplify their voices.”

Huang explained that while the past year was difficult for the AAPI community, she wanted to focus on the positives.

“What we learned during the challenges was to rely on the people we feel closest to, our community and how do you build community and really feel supported and feel like you belong,” said Huang.

Both Lee and Huang know what it’s like not feeling that representation, being from Indiana and Colorado.

“An artist said this is the first time I felt supported by a community, felt a community behind me. To be seen and feel that sense of belonging is especially powerful,” said Huang.

In the ritz and glitz of Art Basel and all the beautiful, unique works of art, lies a small but strong community just fighting to be seen.

“Through hardships we had this year, we had time that we could look at the diversity in our community and see it as a strength to bring us together,” said Huang. “It’s a first of its kind event so we’re excited about that. I think everybody can feel it here tonight.”

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The inaugural Gold Art Prize will be awarded every two years.