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.
Photo: Taiyo Na. P.I.C. Courtesy MOCA
The Museum of Chinese America (MOCA) is a hidden gem. Tucked away on Centre Street between Grand and Hester streets in a striking space designed by acclaimed artist Maya Lin, it’s a breath of fresh air in a neighborhood known more for its turn of the century warehouse buildings than cutting edge cultural institutions.
Once inside, the fun begins. With world-class facilities and access to fresh, innovative exhibits and programs, there is something for everyone. You’ll find their core exhibition featuring 160 years of Chinese American history, interactive programs for families, Free Thursday Talks, the signature film series, Chinatown Film Project, and live music evenings titled MOCAMIX.
Neighboring Chinatown is not just for food and tourism. There is a thriving art scene there as well. HT Chen has been running his acclaimed modern dance company and school out of the Chen Dance Center in the heart of Chinatown on Mulberry Street for over 30 years. The Museum of Chinese in America, on Centre Street, has been the national home for the diverse Chinese American communities since 1988, and strives to be a model among interactive museums. Its innovative exhibitions, educational and cultural programs continually bring 160 years of Chinese American history to life.
Photo by Phillip Kalantzis Pope.
It’s going to be a warm one to start the week. Look for a high of 72 with cloudy skies and high winds. A thunderstorm is possible tonight.
Next Monday evening, the Museum of Chinese in America will host a conversation with Frank H. Wu, Chancellor & Dean of University of California Hastings College of Law and author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White, on the future of civil rights and civic engagement in multiracial America. IMDiversity.com notes: Yellow explores the position of Asian-Pacific Americans within America’s traditionally polarized, Black-White conception of race. A Chinese-American professor of law at Howard University, Wu has a refreshing ability to write about topics such as civil rights and civil liberties, affirmative action and multiracial identity, in a manner that is informed by a keen understanding of history and policy while also being quite personal and emotionally honest.
The conversation will be moderated by Judge Denny Chin, currently the only federal appellate judge of Asian American descent on active status in the country.
$12/adult; $8/senior(65+); FREE for MOCA members, and teachers & students (with valid ID). RSVP REQUIRED to firstname.lastname@example.org // 7pm // 215 Centre Street.
Family workshop on Chinese Puzzles at MOCA.
This Saturday visit the Museum of Chinese in America and try your hand at puzzle solving! MOCA is offering family puzzle-solving workshops on the last Saturday of each month from March to August 2011. Kids 4 and older work with their parents to solve the puzzles, hear stories related to the puzzles, and experiment with puzzle-inspired art.
Time: Saturday, March 26 from 1:30 to 2:30 // Location: 215 Centre Street // Admission: $10 per child and adult pair; $5 per additional child; Free for MOCA Family Members. RSVP to email@example.com
Still from the film "Take Out" by Sean Baker & Shih-Ching Tsou
The Chinese Cinema Club at the Museum Of Chinese in America will be screening the independent film Take Out, a story about an illegal Chinese immigrant who falls behind on payments on an enormous smuggling debt. He has until the end of the day to come up with money from friends, family the day’s delivery tips. (The film is in English and Chinese, with English subtitles.) An extra perk – if you order tickets in advance, you can get a tasty Chinese take out meal to eat while you watch the film.
The Lo-Down is pleased to be taking part in a round table discussion tomorrow night focusing on what’s missing in the mainstream media’s coverage of Chinatown. “Chinatown, Uncovered: A Panel and Town Hall,” hosted by The Asian American Journalists Association and the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), will explore what’s being covered, and what’s not, in Manhattan’s Chinatown, and how ethnic, online and alternative media outlets have stepped up to fill in the holes.