Happy Birthday, Asian American Arts Alliance

The Asian American Arts Alliance, a non-profit arts organization in New York, is about to turn 26 years old.

And if their next bash – actually, make that the next five – is as lavish as the last, it’s going to be quite a birthday celebration. On Oct. 16, 2007, the Alliance honored costume designer Willa Kim, music executive Eric Wong and actor Kal Penn at its 25th Anniversary Gala at the Tribeca Rooftop.

Food, family and philanthropy marked the festive occasion. Large hors d’oeuvres platters and plates of sushi seemed to multiply in front of guests’ eyes – and that was just for starters. In the reception area, a multiple-course dinner was served to patrons, who included hosts and presenters B.D. Wong, Margaret Cho and Cassie, who was so nervous about presenting Wong’s award that she forgot what she was trying to say. Other attendees included actor James Kyson Lee (“Heroes”) and Broadway legend Tommy Tune, and DJ Rekha spun tunes at the end of the evening.

Wong and Cho brought relatives to the banquet, but it was the presence of Kal Penn’s father, Suresh Modi, that was most notable because Penn sent him in his place while the actor filmed episodes of “House” in Los Angeles. Penn accepted via a pre-recorded video message in which he recounted his first commercial audition after moving to California, where everything from his turn into the parking lot to his departure reeked of stereotypical wrongs.

“That was my first exposure to typecasting and sort of the additional hurdles that we have to go through as Americans of Asian descent in the arts,” Penn said in the video. He later thanked the Alliance for their work and “creating all these wonderful opportunities” for artists like himself.

Then there was the philanthropy. The Alliance held a silent auction with proceeds benefiting their organization, which helps artists and organizations through initiatives and funding. Items ranged from autographed guitars, theater tickets, and private, personalized events such as violin concerts and celebrity chef cooked dinners in the comfort of the winner’s own home.

This year, from Oct. 7 to Nov. 7, the Alliance is upping the ante by honoring a number of personalities in a series of five events. The names include fashion designers Phillip Lim, Peter Som and Angel Chang; and playwright David Henry Hwang. For more information or to make a donation, go to http://www.aaartsalliance.org.

Photo Gallery: 25th Anniversary Gala