The Chinese Heritage Foundation (CHF) will observe a milestone when it holds its annual open house on Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014.  It will be its 10th year!

As noted on the CHF website, upon reaching her 80th birthday in 2004, Ming Tchou reflected on the full and rewarding life she and her husband had led in Minnesota.  She was grateful for all the opportunities and freedom they had found here and decided to give back to the Minnesota community by establishing a community-based foundation, inviting the Chinese community to participate in its running and operation.  

The Inaugural Fund of the Foundation is an endowed fund, managed by The Minneapolis Foundation, with grants of income restricted to the funding priorities listed below. 

 Education: To promote the understanding of Chinese history, especially that of the 20th century, and to encourage the study of Chinese literature.

Arts and culture: To perpetuate and to promote understanding of the richness and splendor of Chinese visual and performing arts, music, and culture, and to encourage the development of new artistic endeavors based on Chinese themes.

Chinese heritage: To encourage residents of Minnesota with Chinese lineage to learn about their heritage.

Chinese seniors’ well being:  To promote and to initiate programs tending to the well-being of Chinese senior citizens in Minnesota, such as providing Chinese meals, facilitating coming together, and senior daycare programs.

Communication:  To promote and facilitate the communication and mutual understanding between the Chinese community and the Minnesota community at large.

Grants are reviewed and awarded by an Advisory Committee comprised of five members elected by contributing donors.  These members serve staggered two-year terms.  Annual elections are held in which current donors cast their votes for the open seats.

The Foundation also welcomes individuals to create donor-advised funds under its umbrella.  To date, six such donor-advised funds have been established.  

Individuals and families who have contributed $1,000 or more become lifetime Founding Donors of the Chinese Heritage Foundation.  All founding donors, as is true of all annual donors, are eligible to serve on the Foundation's Advisory Committee and each has voting privileges to elect the committee for the following year. The designation of Founding Donors will close at the end of 2014.  Donations of $1,000 or more received after that date will be known as Lifetime Sustaining Donors.

In its relatively short history, CHF has awarded a total of 38 grants to a diverse group of artists and organizations.  A detailed list of grants can be found on the CHF website, which includes an endowed CHF graduate fellowship at University of Minnesota in the study of history of WWII in China. It will be fully funded by the end of this year.  This will ensure that there will always be a full-time graduate student in the Department of History studying this neglected period of Chinese history.

CHF also created two awards: Chinese Minnesotan of Note, which honors individuals who have had significant impact on our community through their vision and service; the Volunteer of the Year award,  which encourages and recognizes volunteerism at CHF.  

In addition to grant making, CHF also engages in various activities managed by a separate entity, CHF Friends.  CHFF has its own federal nonprofit status and is entirely volunteer-run.  It has a separate board of directors and several committees that manage the following activities. 

1. Calligraphy Committee – A team of translators and calligraphers actively participate at Twin Cities festivals (from Blaine to Burnsville) and corporate headquarters (Delta Airlines, General Mills, Target, Best Buy) to do name translations, lectures on popular Chinese customs, and fortune-telling, if requested.  They also visit many schools, public and private, from North Minneapolis to Normandale French Immersion in Edina.  This flexible and multi-talented group has also done grandparent reminiscences or arm tattoos, whatever the situation calls for.  

2. Occasional Evenings – Every so often, this committee hosts ‘A Leisurely Evening in a Chinese Home’ that offers opportunities for attendees to participate in traditional Chinese games, intergenerational conversations, and ‘show and tell’ such as jade appreciation.  Is yours real or fake?

3.  Special Events – CHFF also arranges special events such as a dinner-dance with C. Y. Lee, a visit with Chinese actor James Hong, a private lecture about the Ricci Map at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, plus exclusive book signings that have included Cathy Bao Bean, author of “The Chopstick Principle.”

4. A Passage to China – Responding to the mission of promoting mutual understanding between the greater Minnesota community and the Chinese community, CHFF in partnership with China Insight, created this interactive event at Mall of America.  For one weekend every April, the mall’s rotunda and Sears Court are transformed with a festive Chinese motif.  Collaborating with more than 40 Chinese organizations, mainstream arts organizations and an army of community volunteers, many interactive activities and games offer attendees glimpses of Chinese culture, history, geography and entertainment.  In the six years at Mall of America, attendance has grown steadily.  Mall officials estimated attendance to be around 15,000 at the 2014 event, and consider it to be one of the best-organized and decorated events at the Mall.  

5. Dream of the Red Chamber.  Undoubtedly the most ambitious project yet undertaken by CHF is the collaboration with San Francisco Opera --  to commission and produce a new, contemporary opera based on the beloved 18th-century Qing Dynasty Chinese novel by Cao Xuequin.  Music will be by world renowned Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng (Madame Mao, Silver River) and an English-language libretto by composer Bright Sheng and Tony Award-winning Chinese-American playwright David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly and Chinglish).  This opera, to be sung in English, will have its world premiere in the fall of 2016 by the San Francisco Opera. 

What are CHF plans for the future? Pearl Bergad, CHF executive director, said, “CHF hopes to continue to build on and expand our current programs, and to create new meaningful ones; to attract new volunteers/leaders to deepen our commitment to our mission; to build our endowment fund; to bring our community together more often to further our common goals of promoting mutual understanding among all Minnesotans; and many more.”

Do plan to attend the open house!  Get involved. Make new friends.

 Article by Elaine Dunn

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