From Left | Mei Lum, Tomie Arai, Michelle Marie Esteva and Herb Tam
Yesterday, The W.O.W. Project hosted the second event in its Summer Series of workshops and discussions. The panel discussion titled “Chinatown: New York’s Newest Art Gallery Scene?” was a conversation focused on the emergence of art spaces throughout Chinatown and how they are affecting the neighborhood. Co-moderated by the Chinatown Art Brigade‘s Tomie Arai and Betty Yu, the panel included Michelle Marie Esteva from Chinatown Soup and Herb Tam from the Museum of Chinese in America.
Both panelists addressed the importance of art galleries in communities. Tam addressed the overall purpose of galleries and said, “They are as much an art space as a social and cultural time capsule.” While Esteva emphasized that the mission of Soup is, “preservation. That is the main goal,” she said.
The conversation quickly took a heated tone as people talked about the underlying issues that residents face as new businesses come to Chinatown. Topics of rent escalation, racism and classism were discussed in what became a difficult, but important conversation about gentrification. One Chinese resident said, “Our whole lives have been about displacement. We had to form our own Chinatown and to see it be taken away is scary.” Others questioned the amount of outreach that new galleries are doing with the community and whether galleries in the surrounding areas are holding themselves accountable. Many residents seemed conflicted by their desire for more art spaces and the fear of what an influx could mean for residents and local businesses.
Mei Lum, the new owner of Wing On Wo and Co., on Mott Street (previously interviewed by the Lo-Down here), started the W.O.W. Project initiative as a way to raise cultural and historical awareness and to develop projects that will bring together the local business community. The hope is to help Chinatown prosper without having to sacrifice most of its culture or its long-term residents.
So far, Lum has definitely provided a platform for individuals to collaborate and engage in complex, often painful, but necessary discourse. Although these conversations don’t always offer solutions, they do encourage a step in the right direction. One thing that panelists did agree on: “If change is inevitable,” Tomie Arai said, “we have to be a part of it.”
Visit the W.O.W. Project’s events page for future happenings.
Brooklyn-based multimedia artist Simone Leigh‘s latest project entitled The Waiting Room opens tomorrow at the New Museum. Featuring a new installation, a series of “care sessions” and underground public programs, The Waiting Room aims to shift the preconceived ideas of medicine.
Leigh’s work, who is the artist-in-residence at The New Museum, specializes in a multitude of different art forms–from sculptures, videos to installations and performances–and emphasizes the unacknowledged roles of women of color in various societies. This project was developed from Leigh’s previous work Free People’s Medical Clinic, which offered free treatments and workshops in the Brooklyn home of Dr. Josephine English, the first black ob-gyn in the state of New York.
The exhibit focuses on an expanded notion of medicine, featuring muthi markets in Durban, South Africa, meditation rooms, herbalist apothecaries, movement studios, public and private workshops and healing treatments. Waiting Room highlights the difficulties that community-organized care programs have faced in the past, “from the United Order of Tents, a secret society of nurses active since the Underground Railroad, to volunteers in the Black Panther Party’s embattled clinics active from the 1960s to the 1980s.”
The Waiting Room is on view from June 22nd to September 18th. Hours for Public Programs and Care Sessions vary. Visit the website for more details.
This Saturday, a free art workshop will be held at Sara D. Roosevelt Park, featuring famed graphic artist and sculptor Dennis McNett, a Brooklyn artist who has created mythical larger-than-life masks, screen prints and 3-D pieces throughout his career.
Student Art Party at the Abrons this Saturday
The Abrons Art Center at the Henry Street Settlement (466 Grand at Pitt) is hosting a Student Art Party for children and parents on Saturday, May 21, starting at 10:30 a.m. The party will display artwork of visual arts students and students from the performing arts training programs will perform selections throughout the day. Refreshments will be served and art making activities will be available for the entire family. A free screening of animated short films will take place in the Underground Theater from noon-2 p.m. Check here for the schedule of events.
The 2011 Student Art Exhibit features artwork by students in the Abrons Arts Center Visual Arts and Arts-in-Education programs, Henry Street’s Youth Services programs, and neighborhood schools in the Lower East Side. This annual exhibition showcases the achievements of a broad range of talented young artists, from toddlers to teens. Painting, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, and photographic works will be included in the show, as well as book making projects and fiber arts.