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In 1984, Chicago artist and community leader Tatsu Aoki founded Innocent Eyes and Lenses (IEL) in response to the need for an organization that was dedicated to presenting Asian American artists and programs that were relevant to the community. Since then, IEL, an Illinois-based non-profit organization, has been a leading force in presenting the Asian American experience through the arts in Illinois.



2004 - A NEW NAME

After 20 years of working as IEL, we made the decision to change our name from Innocent Eyes and Lenses to Asian Improv aRts Midwest in 2004. This change was made in order to reflect the community that IEL has been serving since its inception as well as to recognize the partnership that has been established with the San Francisco-based Asian Improv aRts. Founded by musician and community activist Francis Wong, Asian Improv aRts has been a leader in building community through the Asian American cultural arts on the West Coast for two decades and we are honored to be a part of the Asian Improv family.

AIRMW has had tremendous success in connecting artists, community organizations and the city’s cultural institutions and has presented programs featuring world-class artistry while remaining rooted in the Chicago Asian American community. AIRMW has collaborated with and/or received support from organizations that include the Japanese American Service Committee (JASC), the Jazz Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Illinois Arts Council, the Illinois Humanities Council, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Boeing Corporation, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago Foundation and Meet The Composer among many others.


Thanks in part to our community supporters, members and the 
Chicago Cultural Treasures Grant by IFF, AIRMW was able to purchase our own building at 4875 N Elston in the North Mayfield neighborhood. We had our soft opening in February 2023 and officially opened to the public in April. We look forward to be able to start a new chapter in our new space.


Visit our sister organization in San Francisco, Asian Improv aRts

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