Celebrating Asian American Heritage in Chicago: 13 Events for May!

By Adela Skowronski |

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A group of musicians pose around a drumset

SamaSama Project, a Chicago-based Filipino Folk Fusion band (Photo courtesy SamaSama Project)

May marks Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the US, and Chicago is certainly ready to celebrate. The umbrella of Asian American Pacific Islander — AAPI — heritage covers a vast range of cultures, making for a huge variety in the types of events hosted all around the city. Explore a festival of Indian classical music; bring your kids to a celebration of Korean Children’s Day; enjoy a showcase of diverse Asian choreographers.

Bundles of events will provide great entertainment and learning opportunities for folks of all ages and backgrounds across the Chicago area. Here are just a few that we recommend!

APIDA Arts Festival

Friday, May 5 – Sunday, May 7
Various locations throughout Chicago
Tickets: Free

Join APIDA Arts Festival for a weekend-long celebration of Asian, Pacific-Islander, and Desi/South Asian American art in some of Chicago’s coolest art spaces. Spend Friday listening to music at the Chicago Cultural Center, enjoy Saturday’s multimedia showcase at the Goodman Theatre, and explore installations Sunday at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Link: APIDA Arts Festival

Korean Children’s Day Celebration

Saturday, May 6, 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Korean Cultural Center of Chicago
9925 Capitol Dr, Wheeling
Tickets: $10 per child, parents free

Take the kids for a fun day of music, activities and traditions in honor of Korean Children’s Day! Children’s Day in South Korea is a public holiday celebrated every year on May 5th, and encourages parents to take a break from work in order to spend time with their kids. Activities for the Korean Cultural Center’s celebration include a museum tour, lessons in traditional Korean dance, Korean book storytelling, and so much more. Parents are free! Activities will be presented in two, 2-hour sessions.
Link: Korean Children’s Day – Event

Great Filipino Songbook

Saturday, May 6, 2:00 pm
Harold Washington Library
400 S State St, Chicago
Tickets: Free

Enjoy Filipino fusion band SamaSama Project as they blend folk, ska, rock and Latin music! This group plays all over the Midwest and will be bringing their dynamic show to this free Chicago Public Library concert for all ages.
Link: SamaSama Project – Great Filipino Songbook Concert

Passages of Dance & Music: Asian Choreographers Showcase

Sunday, May 7, 3:00 PM
Visceral Dance Center
3121 N. Rockwell St, Chicago
Tickets: $25

Mandala South Asian Performing Arts presents an afternoon of dances choreographed by Asian-American artists, including Shalaka Kulkarni and Yoshinojo Fujima. The event aims to highlight both traditional and contemporary works of Asian art from various countries.
Link: Mandela South Asian Performing Arts – Events

Soul of Formosa: Music for Ehru, Flute, Cello, Piano

Monday, May 8, 7:00 PM
Kehrein Center for the Arts
5628 W. Washington Blvd, Chicago
Tickets: From $50

A blend of Chinese and Western classical music is the focus of this concert at the Kehrein Center. The Formosa ensemble’s unique instrumentation of Chinese erhu with piano, flute, and cello, adds an extra dimension of intrigue to the show.
Link: Soul of Formosa

Asian Night Market

Friday, May 12, 5:00 – 9:00 pm
Oakton College
1600 Golf Rd, Des Plaines
Tickets: Free

This market — at Oakton College, just outside of Chicago — features all Asian-American vendors and small businesses.
Link: Asian Night Market

Fire & Dragons

Friday, May 12 – Sunday, May 14
Newport Theater
956 W Newport Ave, Chicago
Tickets: From $25

All-star performers present a weekend of burlesque, circus, drag and fringe theater shows from Chicago’s Asian American & Pacific Islander communities! Friday features performers in a sci-fi themed fantasy speakeasy, while Saturday boasts two performances of fringe theater and burlesque. The theme for Sunday night’s grand finale is in the name: fire and dragons. Show is 18+.
Link: Fringe Arts from Chicago’s Asian American Community

Kalapriya Festival for Indian Performing Arts

Saturday, May 13, 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
The Kehrein Center For The Arts
5628 W Washington Blvd, Chicago
Tickets: Free

Over the entire year, Chicago DCASE presents the Kalapriya Festival for Indian Performing Arts. Different events will be held in different parts of the city throughout 2023, with each event highlighting a different aspect of Indian performing arts. Festivities on May 13th will be focusing on Carnatic vocal and instrumental music, as well as South Asian poetry and cuisine.
Link: Festival for Indian Performing Arts – The Music and Poetry of South Asia

26th Annual Asian American Showcase

Friday, May 19 – Wednesday, May 31
Gene Siskel Film Center
164 N State St, Chicago
Tickets: Varying, based on film

The Foundation for Asian American Independent Media sponsors an annual festival to celebrate the work of independent Asian filmmakers. This year’s festival includes Q&As with filmmakers, full screenings of movies, and an Asian improv showcase at Second City!
Link: 2023 Showcase — Foundation for Asian American Independent Media (faaim.org)

Free Admission Days for the Heritage Museum of Asian Art

May 19, 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm (and every third Friday)
Heritage Museum of Asian Art
3500 South Morgan St, Chicago
Tickets: Free

The Heritage Museum of Asian Art continues its third Friday tradition, on which day everybody can enjoy free admission and an hour long tour (available in English or Mandarin) of the museum’s current collections.
Link: Free Third Fridays at the Heritage Museum of Asian Art

Tejendra Majumdar & Tanmoy Bose

Sunday, May 21, 3:00 PM
South Asia Institute
1925 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago
Tickets: $35 presale

Two musicians from the Indian classical music tradition appear together on the same stage! Tanmoy Bose (tabla) and Tejendra Majumdar (sarod) are both foremost ambassadors for their instruments, having toured extensively around the world and performed with the late Ravi Shankar. Together, they present a varied concert of Indian classical music at the South Asia Institute.
Link: South Asia Institute Concerts

Music of Cambodia Concert

Saturday, May 27, 11:00 AM
Rogers Park Branch, Chicago Public Library
6907 N. Clark St, Chicago
Tickets: Free

Presented in partnership with Chicago’s National Cambodian Heritage Museum and the Chicago Public Library, musicians will demonstrate music from Cambodian culture and share its history. The free, fun concert is part of the Chicago Public Library’s celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month,
Link: Music of Cambodia Concert

Exhibit: Art and Poetry of South Asian Women

Through Saturday, June 10, 2023
South Asia Institute
1925 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago

Tickets: $10, with student and senior discounts available

Continuing its exhibit from earlier this year, the South Asia Institute presents an interesting look at the artwork and poetry of South Asian women, interweaving art with their personal experiences.
Link: Testimonies on Paper: Art and Poetry of South Asian Women, Exhibition