AsiaFest 2018 includes instrument demonstrations and performances.
AsiaFest 2018 includes instrument demonstrations and performances.
Photo courtesy of Asia Society Texas Center

Get Your Dumpling On and Celebrate Culture with AsiaFest's Giant Block Party

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day but our advice is to skip it, just this once, before heading out to AsiaFest 2018.

The Pondi Cafe at Asia Society Texas Center will be open — that's Pondicheri's satellite restaurant — plus their strong line-up of food vendors includes Flip ‘n Patties, Muiishi Makirritos, Wokker, Friohana Shave Ice, It’s a Wrap!, Harolds, Coffee-Q, Dumpling Haus, Pop Fancy, Granel Spice Market and Tea Citi.

This giant indoor/outdoor block party celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and it's so chockfull of art, performances, demonstrations, an international bazaar and children's activities that you won't know where to start, but we've got a few ideas.

Art lovers: Be sure to check out Houston Center for Photography's Flash Drive, an ambulance-turned camera obscura that creatively illustrates the intersection of optics, photography and history. Asia Society's two art exhibits will be free for viewing on this day, so don't miss "Zheng Chongbin: Clusters of Memory" and the work of several artists in FotoFest 2018 Biennial: INDIA.

"FotoFest itself has closed in the other venues; ours is up through July," says Joy Partain, Asia Society Texas Center's senior vice president of marketing and communications. "This is a great chance for Houstonians to see the exhibit." She says Chongbin's art includes some very wide murals and several video screens. "It's an aural landscape, multi sensory, you’re hearing things and seeing things."

Shopping: Explore the international bazaar and find the perfect item for your home or as a gift. Get a henna design on your hand, purchase some jewelry or a kimono, and load your bags up with soaps, aromatherapy, spices, ceramics and more.

Don't miss the scavenger hunt for kids all over the beautiful Asia Society Texas Center building.
Don't miss the scavenger hunt for kids all over the beautiful Asia Society Texas Center building.
Photo courtesy of Asia Society Texas Center

Children's activities: There's a scavenger hunt that takes kids throughout the stunning, east meets west architecture of the Yoshio Taniguchi-designed center. Stephanie Todd Wong, Director of Performing Arts & Culture, says they've turned the whole upstairs area — the Water Garden Terrace — into an activity zone for kids.

Some of the highlights presented by Asia Society Texas Center and their community partners include Indonesian batik making, kamishibai storytelling, decorating traditional uchiwa fans, Arabic calligraphy, Ebru art (Turkish-style paper marbling), Indian alpana designs, a tinikling demonstration (bamboo pole dancing) and ukelele sing-alongs. Children will be introduced to Asian outdoor games like jianzi (similar to hacky sack), kith-kith (similar to hopscotch), and hanetsuki (similar to badminton).

Performances include Korean folk and classical dance, Indian modern and classical dance, and Bollywood dancing.
Performances include Korean folk and classical dance, Indian modern and classical dance, and Bollywood dancing.
Photo courtesy of Asia Society Texas Center

Performances: "We’ll have the theater open. Performances inside the theater and also a temporary stage on the front lawn throughout the course of the day," says Wong. Guests will discover Bollywood dancing, Korean folk and classical dance, Indian modern and classical dance, and instrumental music.

"We've got performances, activities, games for kids of all ages. There's food to be eaten, shopping to be done," says Wong. "It’s free, it’s free! It should be quite lively and exciting. An exciting way for folks to come in and explore cultures that they wouldn’t necessarily see somewhere else."

AsiaFest 2018 is scheduled for May 19 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore Boulevard, 713-496-9901, asiasociety.org/texas, free.

Zheng Chongbin, "Clusters of Memory" continues through July 8; FotoFest 2018 Biennial continues through July 29; both at Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore Boulevard, 713-496-9901, asiasociety.org/texas.

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