Cameron Road facility melds Asian cultures, offers amenities for entire Austin community
As the Asian population in Austin began to grow in the mid-1990s, residents started a grass-roots effort to build a community center for Asian Americans.
Advocating for a central place for the community to host events paid off. Voters approved spending $5 million on the center in 2006. In May 2013, City Council approved an ordinance to form an Asian American Resource Center advisory board.
The AARC opened in October 2013 on Cameron Road, and in one year its facilities have been rented out 259 times, said Taja Beekley, AARC culture and arts education manager.
"We often hear from community groups, 'I don't know how we were able to have all of our events before the Asian American Resource Center,'" Beekley said. "The community was really spread out, going to high schools, elementary school cafeterias, gyms [for events], so it's really great to have this single, central location for the community to come to."
The AARC, run by the Parks and Recreation Department, offers many free amenities and classes to the community, including the use of its library and computer lab, community rooms and gardening plots. Residents can also take culinary classes or English as a second language courses.
To communicate with North Austin's diverse Asian population, AARC staff members speak 17 different languages, including Hindi, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Nepalese, Spanish, Toisan Chinese, Urdu and Vietnamese. Residents can visit the AARC by using its free limited transportation service on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays that can be accessed from various locations in Northwest Austin.
The AARC caters to youth and adults with wellness activities and cultural art classes, film screenings, workshops and camps. The facility even hosted an Asian food truck competition called Rice, which AARC hopes to make an annual event.
The facility also features community art exhibitions that are rotated every quarter. North Austin resident Barbara Hsieh is one of the artists featured in the AARC exhibit open through the end of December. Hsieh, who is a former interior designer, had not painted in 40 years prior to making paintings for the AARC.
"Those paintings are all images from my childhood," she said. "Taiwan is my roots, and Texas is my home."
Hsieh said she frequently visits the center for events, including film screenings and live music performances.
"That is the place where I can have a connection with lots of different people from different countries," she said. " I think it's a place for lots of people to [share] different cultures, and we can understand each other better."
Staff members speak 17 different languages
About 25,000 visits to the center in one year
Community art exhibits rotate every quarter
AARC hosted six special events in 2013–14
Open to the entire Austin community
AARC facilities available to the community include
One library and computer lab
Two community rooms
One conference room
One outdoor lawn
One grand ballroom
Asian American Resource Center, 8401 Cameron Road, 512-974-1700, www.austintexas.gov/aarc, Hours: Mon.–Tue., Fri.–Sat. 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; Wed.–Thu. 9 a.m.–9 p.m.