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LIers celebrate Asian culture, aid Japan

Artist Hyon Hee Cho Hartberger poses in her

Artist Hyon Hee Cho Hartberger poses in her East Northport studio with one of the two paintings she will donate to help raise funds for the victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. (April 5, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Hyon Hartberger brushes black ink on rice paper, then adds purple chrysanthemums and pink cherry blossoms to create traditional Korean paintings.

The East Northport artist is donating four of her favorite pieces to raise funds for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan on March 11.

Hartberger is among artists, merchants and other promoters of Asian culture on Long Island who are turning yearly celebrations of their heritage into Japanese relief efforts.

Some artists will donate their creations. Restaurant owners will offer a variety of Asian food for a fundraiser reception. Students will perform martial arts dances to the beat of taiko drums. Merchants will raffle wares.

"If we all get together and do a little bit, we can help Japan in a big way," said Hartberger, 49, originally from South Korea.

She will have her art auctioned at the fifth annual Asian-American Cultural Festival of Long Island, set for Saturday at Farmingdale State College.

The other relief drive will be the 11th annual Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival on May 7 at Stony Brook University's Charles B. Wang Center. Net proceeds from drumming and martial arts performances will go to charity, along with a portion of total sales from festival exhibitors.

Up to 3,000 people attend the Farmingdale event each year, while several hundred go to the Stony Brook festival. An estimated 2,000 Japanese immigrants live on Long Island, but the events appeal to a growing Asian community of more than 150,000 people and to others interested in their culture.

Both events had been scheduled before the disaster in Japan, but organizers saw the yearly gatherings as an opportunity to help. Funds raised will go to an earthquake relief fund set up by the Manhattan-based Japan Society.

"When the earthquake and tsunami took place we immediately shifted gears" to organize the relief event, said Karen Bomzer, chair of the Asian-American Cultural Festival. "The wonderful thing we see is the unity from all the groups that are participating at this time of need."

While the efforts are modest, they are part of a growing outpouring, said Shannon Jowett, a Japan Society spokesman.

"We have had people come in . . . with dollars and change, and give it to us. It's that grassroots," he said.

The society has collected more than $3 million in aid for Japan from nearly 11,000 individual donations, while the American Red Cross has received about $144 million, both groups reported.

Gerard Senese, a martial arts studio owner who runs the Cherry Blossom Festival, said his group hopes to continue helping for years to come.

"The rebuilding is not going to be something that is done in a few months," said Senese, 58.

Sonoka Fukuma Gozelski, a theater set designer from Northport, could no longer take the images of devastation without doing something.

"I felt really guilty sipping the hot coffee here as I watched the TV," said Gozelski, a Japanese native.

So she took colorful collages she'd created with materials collected in Japan and turned them into "Relief Postcards" to benefit the Japanese Red Cross Society.

If the funds help just one person, Gozelski said, she would consider her effort worth it.

Helping Japan

Asian-American Cultural Festival of Long Island

Saturday, Roosevelt Hall, Farmingdale State College, 2350 Broadhollow Rd., Farmingdale.

12-5 p.m.: lion dances, art exhibits, children's activities. Free.

5:15-9:30 p.m.: stage performances, food and wine, business networking, auction. $25 donation.

For more information: aacfli.org; 631-754-6640.


Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival

May 7. Charles B. Wang Center, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook.

12-5:30 p.m. Free admission to festival exhibits; $10 donation (discounts for children and seniors) forperformances, including taiko drumming, folk dancing and traditional Japanese music.

For more information: matsuri.ryushukan.com; 631-698-2467.

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