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San Francisco art gallery focusing on emerging artists celebrates AAPI Heritage Month

Woman works to establish more inclusive art gallery in San Francisco
Woman works to establish more inclusive art gallery in San Francisco 03:26

Cecilia Chia never dreamed of the platform she would build for emerging artists in the Bay Area when she created Glass Rice in her hometown.

Eight years later, as she reflects on the impact her gallery has on women and people of color, she can take pride representing her community in the art world as the country celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

"I want to create a space in coming back to San Francisco that is warm, is welcoming," Chia said about the decision to move home after studying on the east coast. "So the beautiful thing about having a gallery is that I get to bring in whatever I want."

Cecilia Chia of the Glass Rice art gallery in San Francisco CBS

Born and raised in the city, she first felt the need to branch out while in high school. After attending an all-girls Catholic school her whole life, she decided to make a change in the 10th grade. While it felt nerve wracking at the time, she studied at the Western Academy of Beijing for her final two years. Halfway around the world she found her passion, inspired heavily at the time by Chinese Contemporary Art.

"I did feel like I was missing something," she said about school before moving to China. "It was so fun it was truly like an incredible experience, I met people from all over the world."

She enjoyed having the freedom to explore the arts district in Beijing and see galleries while living abroad. But didn't enjoy the same comfort as a college student in New York trying to navigate the hub of the art world as an undergraduate.

"It was hard to ask questions, you know, even when I had to do this for homework, I was like terrified," Chia said about exploring New York City.

The time she spent overseas and in the Northeast helped to find purpose as the founding director of her gallery back in San Francisco. Chia reached out to artists who wanted support and those she admired. Many she discovered just by looking on Instagram.

"It's kind of a surreal feeling, you know, when I started Glass Rice I didn't know how long it was gonna' last," Chia said.

This month the gallery's current exhibition Big Bloom includes multiple AAPI artists, one way she is honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. She also launched a new concept store called Strip Mall this month to help make art more accessible to the general public. 

"In starting Strip Mall, I wanted to make art more accessible," Chia explained about the store in the back room of the gallery. "It's still a piece of art and something that you can take home at a more affordable price."

It's part of her ongoing mission to make more people excited about art and collecting, saying you can start at any time. The artists featured in Glass Rice also benefit greatly from the support of her guests because it sustains them to keep doing their work so early in their careers.

"When you have that just super innate connection to it, that's beautiful," she said "I'm incredibly grateful that I have been able to continually do this and support artists and to, yeah have a space that people feel welcome and inspired by, like it's the greatest feeling on earth."                

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