A Place of Her Own

APOHO banner


A multidisciplinary arts-based healing project that asks women, “If you had a place of your own, what would it be?”

Through a series of guided workshops, participants uncover discover solutions to culturally enforced silence and trauma. Asian American women express their response with the use of various media: visual art, performance, and literary art. As A PLACE OF HER OWN (APOHO) traverses different avenues, the project serves as a means to cultivate dialogue that raises consciousness about women’s issues and builds stronger interactive communities.

“Asian American women and girls have the highest suicide rate and incidence of mental health problems of all segments of the population and are the least likely to seek help.”

—Africa J, Carrasco M. “Asian-American and Pacific Islander Mental Health Report from a NAMI Listening Session,” February 2011.  National Alliance on Mental Illness.

It is culturally taboo for Asian American women to seek out help for depression. This cuts across all Asian American ethnicities, no matter what their generation in the United States. The continued development and distribution of innovative methods to address trauma for Asian American women is vital.

“Research for Asian and Pacific Islander American arts programming in 2013 demonstrates a lack of arts healing programs specifically designed by, for and delivered by Asian American women. Our community is in need of spaces and activities deemed by our communities as a non-shameful, non-threatening (to the family, the significant others and immediate community. APOHO is vital resource in the battle to regain self-esteem. APOHO and AAWAA’s staff understand them and their ancestral histories on a very deep cultural level.”

—Cynthia Tom, A Place of Her Own founder and director.

APOHO aims to uncover, understand, and express the stories and truths of its participants. The program also embraces healing techniques in order to solidly comprehend family patters. Participants also learn what it is to be supported by others allowing them to thrive and grow into leaders and healers amounts Asian Americans.

A curatorial vision of Cynthia Tom, the conceptual framework and long term goal of this project is to generate a creative place for women to reconnect with themselves and make their aspirations and passions visible. The project goes beyond staging an exhibition. APOHO inspires critical thinking within the larger community. It provides tools for growing confidence, while nurturing community in a safe and secure environment.

This project offers a developing, thoughtful community for discussion and query, and acts as a vehicle for the participants to focus solely on themselves. The artists’ work is a profound process in self-realization. Declarations and revelations of discovery are in store for both artists and visitors alike.


Cythia Tom is developing an ongoing series of workshops, exhibitions, publications and literary opportunities where artists, women, and members of the community can explore their responses and engage in the developing discussion. A PLACE OF HER OWN empowers women to think freely about themselves. As it journeys between different avenues, the project will become a means to cultivate dialogue that raises consciousness about women’s issues and builds stronger interactive communities.

Since its inception in 2010, the project continues to evolve and is taking a direction of social service and activism. Its mission is to provide simple tools for women who want to move forward with courage and honesty, granting them permission to focus on what is important to them alone. Among our newest partners to the APOHO family is Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, an organization that provides pro-bono legal services for domestic violence and human trafficking victims, Cameron House, a provider of women and children’s services, and Mei Magazine, a publication for children adopted from China and other Asian countries. Moreover, a partnership with us has inspired Girl Scout Troop 5062 in Santa Clarita, California to create “a place all your own”.


In 2011, the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Arts and Innovative Partnerships Exploratory Grant and a grant from WOMENarts.org funded the pilot of A PLACE OF HER OWN  for social service agency providers serving Asian Pacific Americans. The grant helped answer how APOHO, could be a vehicle for transformation of women who did not identify as artists.

For this exploration phase of the A Place of Her Own: Social Service Initiative we worked with up and coming leaders in the Asian American community through the help of Trinity Ordona PhD.  The Initiative was overseen by artist, AAWAA board president, and APOHO founder Cynthia Tom, whose passion for women’s social justice drives this project. The Project Director, Elisabeth Travelslight guided the logistics of this project and together Cynthia and Elizabeth created a syllabus that continues to morph and grow over time. AAWAA artist members Vivian Truong, Kelsay Myers, and Shizue Seigel served as art instructors.

Three of the eight participants have gone on to teach their own art and healing projects. Another participant got a masters degree from California Institute of Integral Studies and is teaching hands on art making for healing in the community. Another participant has started her own workshops teaching healing by using play with crayons for adults. Many agree that this modality of expression benefits Asian American mental health organizations and clients. Trinity Ordona has graciously become involved in this project and is working with Cynthia to integrate healing and mediation modalities in the arts instruction.

In 2012, the San Francisco Arts Commission awarded AAWAA an Arts and Communities Innovative PartnershipsExploratory Grant, commissioning us to research and cultivate potential partnerships between AAWAA and San Francisco non-arts organizations serving Asian American women. AAWAA is also a proud partner in the WomenArts Harmony Project, which is generously funded by the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

Now in 2014, Cynthia Tom and Trinity Ordona are hosting a new pilot version of APOHO by combining artists and community leaders from newcomer immigrant/refugee communities in an effort to develop the future trainers and healers. There is a mix of Tibetan, Nepalese, Mongolian, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Hapa, and Filipina women from multiple generations in the United States, ages 22 to 62. For this APOHO series, Ordona and Tom combine the grounding and healing meditation work of guided through art and discussion workshops. Ten women through an archeological dig of their family patterns to discover their aspirations.

Also this year, San Francisco Arts Commission has awarded Asian American Women Artists Association the Arts & Communities: Innovative Partnerships for 2014-2015, which supports AAWAA in partnering with the Asian Women’s Shelter staff to utilize APOHO arts healing methodologies in order to engage Asian American and immigrant women in the processes of addressing self-care, mental health, and safety. The project will focus on work with social service providers and culminate in a public open house that shares the work developed and lessons learned by participants.

“We view this grant as an investment in your creative partnerships and vision for creative social change in our communities and look forward to the development of your project.”

—Weston Teruya, Cultural Equity Grants



de Young Museum | 2008

Driftwood Salon | 2009

SOMArts Cultural Center | 2011