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Practicing Asian American and Pacific Islander Art and Culture

Practicing Asian American and Pacific Islander Art and Culture Through Cultural Wealth and Capital Theory


Kim Hong-do, Korean Traditional Wrestling (from the Album of Genre Paintings by Kim Hong-do), Joseon Dynasty. 10.6 x 8.7 in. Courtesy of National Museum of Korea.









Cultural Wealth as Aspiration Cultural wealth refers to art, faith, tradition, and language that must be transmitted to the next generation (Cho & Yi, 2020). Researchers have defined six elements of cultural wealth: aspiration, navigation, society, language, family, and resistance (Kisida et al., 2014). Cultural capital means that inequality exists because culture is owned differently depending on one’s social and cultural class (Bourdieu, 1986). One theory of cultural capital explains the process by which knowledge becomes capital. The desire to learn more and move forward through learning functions as capital. Gore et al. (2019) described how cultural and educational outcomes vary depending on whether there is a culture with an aspiration (as cultural capital) or not. They explained that those with a greater capacity to aspire are said to have increased access to a range of experiences and a more highly developed understanding of the steps they need to take. They have greater opportunity to explore and experiment, and therefore amass a store of experiences as useful points of reference. (p. 520) In writing this column on AAPI art and culture, we continue to emphasize the importance of learning about various cultures and the arts because teaching and embracing them ultimately act as an element of cultural diversity and aspiration that creates capital.

Connecting Classrooms With Home Practices With the aim of transmitting knowledge to the next generation, preservice and in-service teachers can apply best teaching practices to teach about AAPI art and culture and its connections to cultural wealth and cultural capital theory. Knowing and practicing languages function as a form of cultural wealth. Given this understanding, art teachers can adopt different cultural and artistic languages and teach students how to apply them in K–12 classrooms and at home (Yoo, 2019). Adopting Yoo’s practice of repositioning in home-related experiences, art teachers can provoke students with a deeper understanding of AAPI art and construct knowledge as capital. Teachers can design lessons that encourage students and families to practice discussing, interpreting, positioning, and repositioning different positions in art and culture using languages and visual images. Using discourse and storyline activities, students play the roles of AAPI artists (including the first and second generations) to respond to AAPI art and culture. For example, teachers may use one of the historically well-known Korean artists, Hong-do Kim (1745–1806), and the artwork Korean Traditional Wrestling (see Figure 1 and National Museum of Korea [n.d.]), which depicted ordinary people’s lives rather than the privileged class. Students can position themselves as the artist to explain this artwork to their parents and switch the position (reposition) as adults to expand this activity at home. The discussion topics can include objects in the image, why the artist created the image, the status of artists in this time and location; cultural, social, and economic values of the image; and people’s responses to this image from different social and cultural classes. Then they can share the outcomes of their family discussions back at school with their art teachers and classmates.

References Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 81–93). Greenwood.

Cho, S., & Yi, Y. (2020). Funds of knowledge and cultural capital: Working toward diversity and equity of knowledges. Applied Linguistics, 41(5), 810–815.

Gore, J., Gibson, S., Fray, L., Smith, M., & Holmes, K. (2019). Fostering diversity in the creative arts by addressing students’ capacity to aspire. Journal of Creative Behavior, 53(4), 519–530.

Kisida, B., Greene, J. P., & Bowen, D. H. (2014). Creating cultural consumers: The dynamics of cultural capital acquisition. Sociology of Education, 87(4), 281–295.

National Museum of Korea. (n.d.). “Korean Traditional Wrestling” from the album of genre paintings by Kim Hong-do. https://www.museum.go.kr/site/eng/relic/represent/view?relicId=551offsite link

Yoo, M. S. (2019). Enhancing cultural wealth: Positioning as a language broker across school and home. Theory Into Practice, 58(3), 246–253.


Column by: Kyungeun Lim, Assistant Professor of Art Education, Northern Arizona University

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