CHINATOWN — Looking to get away from the busy restaurants and gift shops of Wentworth Avenue?
Jeffrey Moy invites you onto the side streets for a more refined cultural experience.
"People come to eat and do a little shopping, but there's nothing for them to see relating to Asian culture," said Moy, founder of the new Heritage Museum of Asian Art at 211 W. 23rd St.
The museum, which opened in early June, contains an impressive collection of paintings, carvings, rare stones, furniture and more, some of it dating thousands of years.
Moy said he opened the museum as a way to give back to Chinatown.
A grandson of Chinese immigrants who founded the city's original Chinatown neighborhood at Clark and Van Buren streets, Moy operated three stores before leaving the neighborhood in the 1970s to pursue a successful career as a publisher of Asian art books.
In the decades since, he's amassed a wealth of contacts with collectors and curators across the globe who've helped him build his own collection for the museum
Guests at the serene space will see jade ornaments, hand-painted porcelain, ornately carved stonework and furniture, including an alcove bed dating to the 18th century.
"A half-dozen of these exist in the world," Moy said of the bed. "This one is in pristine condition."
Many of the artifacts, like a roughly 10-by-40 wooden screen adorned with hand-carved stone statues, originally were in the palaces of wealthy Chinese. Some of other pieces, like the ornamental jade "funeral mask," were salvaged during excavations as the Chinese landscape underwent massive industrial changes.
Already, the museum has been welcoming guests from across the Midwest, courtesy of articles publicized in Chinese-language newspapers.
But Moy said he's hoping to draw more visitors from Chicago, particularly from Chinatown, where he said many residents emigrate from rural farm life only to begin working tirelessly in various local industries.
What's left behind in the transition, he said, is an education about Asian heritage.
"What I'm trying to do is bring back more culture to the community," he said.
The Heritage Museum of Asian Art, 211 W. 23rd St., is waving its admission fee until September.
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