Art, like community voices, can be powerful. When art is inspired by community voices and experiences, it can become a tool for change.
How can we continue to preserve Chinatown through art? How can emerging artists and residents work together to shape the future of a rapidly gentrifying Chinatown? These are some of the questions that we explore at Residence Lab, one of ACDC’s placemaking initiatives that leverages the community’s assets, skills, and experiences to cultivate spaces that foster happiness, engagement, and mobilization, in collaboration with BCNC’s Pao Arts Center.
This year’s Residence Lab artists are Katytarika Bartel from Angry Asian Girls, Ponnapa Prakkamakul, a landscape architect, and Crystal Bi and Lily Xie from Mooneaters Collective. They are working alongside our residents in a seven-week workshop series to co-create the future of Chinatown through art. Our artists use various mediums such as soil, zines, and portrait photography to highlight the narratives of marginalized communities in their work.
With Chinatown boundaries shrinking under the pressures of gentrification and displacement, we developed the ANCHOR initiative as a strategy to “anchor down” and preserve Chinatown homes, businesses, and cultures through creative collaboration, art activism, and resident mobilization. The acronym serves as guiding principles for this work:
In 2016, Billy and Zi, both ACDC youth program alumni, wanted to develop a platform for residents to transform underutilized spaces. With this in mind, they created ThinkChinatown, one of ACDC’s first ANCHOR projects. Yvonne, a Chinatown resident submitted a proposal, which culminated in a collaboration with local artist Shaina Lu, to create the mural, “Tied by a Thousand Threads” currently on display along 15 - 25 Harrison Avenue. This two-part art project, which consisted of the mural and a video documenting the project, not only connected the intergenerational experiences of Yvonne’s immigrant family, but also the shared experiences of the Chinatown community spanning from the early 1900s to today.
Through ThinkChinatown, ACDC saw the empowerment and mobilization that comes from listening to and prioritizing the voices of the Chinatown community. We recognize the potential that art has in unifying people and advocating for change, which is why we launched Residence Lab.
We are so excited to learn from the skills and experiences that our artists and residents bring to the table. Stay tuned for a Residence Lab profile series where we highlight each Residence Lab artist and some of our residents!