New Art on BART Reminds Us We All Can Help End Domestic Violence

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Artist Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya collaborated with the Asian Women's Shelter and BART on the public art campaign 'Let's Talk About Us,' which directs viewers to domestic violence prevention resources. (Florence Middleton)

If you’ve taken BART or Muni in San Francisco or Oakland over the past week, you might have noticed the affirming messages on station walls, billboards and bus shelters in Tagalog, Spanish, Chinese and English.

“Love shouldn’t hurt,” reads a poster featuring an illustration of a mother kissing her smiling daughter on the forehead. “Be the friend who brings it up,” reads another depicting two friends holding each other in an emotional embrace. Colorful spring flowers surround the figures, inviting feelings of renewed hopefulness and warmth.

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya created these artworks for a new domestic violence awareness campaign in partnership with Asian Women’s Shelter and BART, Let’s Talk About Us. Rather than positioning abuse as a private issue between partners or family members, Phingbodhipakkiya takes a different approach: calling on the public to foster more nurturing relationships and address violence in our communities.

“Through art, we just boldly say that domestic violence prevention is a shared responsibility, and that really everyone has a role,” Phingbodhipakkiya tells KQED.

Artist Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya hugs Justine Choy of Hella Heart Oakland at the press conference for 'Let's Talk About Us' on Feb. 15 at Powell Street BART Station. (Kristie Song/KQED)

Born in Georgia to Thai and Indonesian parents, Phingbodhipakkiya is currently in a civic practice artist residency with San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum. The Brooklyn-based artist works across mediums — murals, textiles, sculptures, public art campaigns and participatory installations — with the intention of “invoking joy and belonging in the face of grief and injustice.”


“And I think my work dares us to imagine shared futures that redefine inherited narratives,” she says.

Asian Women’s Shelter — a 35-year-old San Francisco organization that offers emergency shelter, case management, a crisis line and other services in multiple languages — approached Phingbodhipakkiya to collaborate after seeing her 2020 public art campaign in New York. Titled I Still Believe in Our City, her billboards — placed on subways and in prominent locations like Times Square — depicted Asian Americans standing up against COVID scapegoating and xenophobia. An outtake from I Still Believe in Our City even landed on a March 2021 cover of TIME magazine, accompanying a feature about the United States’ legacy of anti-Asian violence.

When Asian Women’s Shelter invited Phingbodhipakkiya to collaborate, the artist didn’t just get to work behind her desktop in New York — she came to San Francisco and conducted deep listening sessions with the shelter’s multicultural, multilingual staff. Some of their insights took her creative process to places she didn’t expect.

“I kept on hearing stories of fraught relationships between Asian mothers and daughters and how that is filled with tension,” she says. “I wanted to honor those stories, because I think mental health is something that is still quite stigmatized within AAPI communities. And oftentimes when mental health isn’t addressed, it can manifest as harm against the ones that we love.”

Pieces from Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya and Asian Women's Shelter's 'Let's Talk About Us' campaign are on view at over a dozen BART stations, aboard trains, at bus shelters and on billboards in San Francisco neighborhoods such as SoMa, Chinatown and the Mission. (Florence Middleton)

Other images for the campaign feature a family looking hopefully towards the future with the words “Everyone Deserves Respect,” and a woman making strong eye contact with the viewer while imploring, “Just Listen.” A joyous, collage-like assembly of babies, fathers, grandmothers and other loved ones reminds us: “Our Community Our Responsibility.” Each poster accompanies a QR code that takes viewers to resources from Asian Women’s Shelter.

“One of the things I appreciate most about Asian Women’s Shelter is that when we support survivors, there’s no judgment towards the survivors, not even towards the abusers,” said Saara Ahmed, community resource coordinator at Asian Women’s Shelter, at the Feb. 15 press conference for Let’s Talk About Us at the Powell Street BART Station. “At AWS, we recognize that each and every one of us is capable of screwing up, of making mistakes and causing harm. It doesn’t make us bad people. But if we accept that harm as a norm, if we accept the normalcy of violence and refuse to change, it’s bound to repeat itself over and over again.”

In light of mass shootings that shook Asian communities in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay in January, Phingbodhipakkiya and Asian Women’s Shelter want to emphasize the connection between intimate forms of abuse and large-scale violence. “When over 60% of mass shooters have had a history of domestic violence, it’s hard not to wonder how many people have accepted that individual’s bad behavior before,” Ahmed continued.

Posters from 'Let's Talk About Us' at Powell Street BART Station. (Katie Thyken)

By encouraging difficult conversations and pointing people to experts who can help, Let’s Talk About Us aims to foster the kind of frank, compassionate discussions needed to make change.

Now that Let’s Talk About Us has gone up, Phingbodhipakkiya’s work in the Bay Area is not over. As part of her Asian Art Museum residency, the artist is currently working on an archive of AAPI stories called Let the Future Speak, where she’s interviewing local Asian and Asian American residents from ages five to 95. Much like the public art campaign, it falls in line with her hopeful vision of art as a means of imagining a better future.

“I’ve been asking people to reflect on their inheritance — so their pasts, their histories,” Phingbodhipakkiya says, “and also thinking about how the past shapes their present, and how it can seed our shared futures.”

Kristie Song contributed reporting to this story. 

'Let's Talk About Us' is on view at over a dozen BART stations in San Francisco and Oakland, aboard trains and on Muni bus shelters and billboards in San Francisco neighborhoods such as SoMa, the Mission and Chinatown. Learn more about Asian Women's Shelter's resources here