Mountlake Terrace artist draws on experiences growing up in Taiwan for ‘Brave to Be You’ exhibit

Ai-Chun Huang (All photos courtesy of Ai-Chun Huang)

When Mountlake Terrace artist Ai-Chun Huang entered Lewis & Clark College’s Fulbright program in summer 2016, she did not expect that she would end up living in the greater Seattle area, showcasing her artwork and raising a family here. Huang had thought she would go back to Taiwan and continue teaching after spending a year as an exchange teacher in the U.S. Huang, her husband Yurii and their two children live in Mountlake Terrace. 

Her most recent work, Brave to Be You, is located on the ArtWorks parking lot fence at 2nd Avenue South and Dayton Street in downtown Edmonds — part of the city’s On the Fence public art program. It features 22 large, colorful illustrated eyes, representing endless eyes that are watching and judging everyone. This reflects Huang’s experience as a woman growing up in Taiwan.

Ai-Chun Huang with her “Brave to Be You” artwork in Edmonds.

“I grew up in a very traditional family, and I was expected to be a good mother, a good daughter, good at every role in society,” Huang said. “I [used to] follow my parents’ expectations to be a teacher. It’s a very decent job as a woman. In our society, when people know that you’re a teacher, they will respect you. In a [typical] Asian family, it’s better for daughters to be a teacher, so when I was young, I thought without a doubt that I was going to be a teacher.”

Brave to Be You partly came from a digital animation project that she did years ago in which people tried to clean and wipe away eyes that are watching them. “Those eyes [represent] people watching me, judging me,” Huang said. “When I was in my 20s or 30s, I was trying to satisfy everyone around me. Even though I still have that personality, I try to find myself and what I truly want to be. All my previous animations and artwork [reflect] this point.”

Huang graduated from National Taiwan Normal University in 2007 and taught art at a public middle school and a high school for nine years. Like many children, she said, she started art in kindergarten. Later she was enrolled in a “special art-gifted school” dedicated to art studies during her middle school years. She had also done solo and group exhibitions in the Seattle area, South Korea, China and throughout Taiwan.

Ai-Chun Huang with her daughter.

Whether Huang is working on crafts or digital media, “I try to explore using all kinds of materials and platforms, using what I have at hand,” she said. “I spent so much time teaching kids how to make art, and it’s always outputs and outputs. I never have time to recharge. That’s why I get very stressed and tired of being an art teacher.”

After taking a few years to travel and raise her children, Huang and her family settled in Mountlake Terrace in 2022. She said that she had to restart her career and make new connections. “As an artist, I need to find all kinds of possibilities and projects,” she said. “I would look at all the artist grants on Artist Trust, and I apply. I just got lucky to get accepted for the [Edmonds] project.”

Huang said that her artwork is highly influenced by South Korean artist Do Ho Suh, who is famous for creating fabric-based architecture and sculptures. She said can relate to Suh’s nomadic lifestyle since he had lived in different cities and countries and had established himself as an immigrant artist in New York City. “It’s very romantic and dream-like,” she said of his art, emphasizing that it prompts her childhood and recent memories to be mixed together. 

Ai-Chun Huang’s animation at Spaceworks Tacoma.

Huang’s animation works are currently displayed at Streetside Artscape project in Spaceworks Tacoma and will be featured at Kent Digital Art Project. Brave to Be You was also featured at Jefferson Park in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood and as a mural at Seattle’s Green Lake Park. Huang expressed interest in exhibiting more of her artwork – including digital art– in Edmonds.

“You make art not for yourself; sometimes you want to share with people to let people understand you and to make more impact on the whole society,” Huang said.

Follow Ai-Chun Huang (黃愛淳) on Instagram, YouTube and her website Little Hope Creative Studio.

— By Nick Ng

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