Chinatown Art Brigade (CAB) is a cultural collective of artists, media makers and activists creating art and media to advance social justice. Their work focuses on the belief that "collaboration with and accountability to those communities that are directly impacted by racial, social and economic inequities must be central to cultural, art, or media making process." Through art and public projections, CAB aims to share stories of Chinatown tenants to fight displacement and gentrification. Chinatown Art Brigade collaborates with the Chinatown Tenants Union of CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, a non-profit organization that fights against tenant rights violation, evictions, and displacement of low-income pan-Asian communities.
Chinatown Art Brigade was co-founded by Tomie Arai, ManSee Kong, and Betty Yu in New York City in December 2015. Arai, a Japanese American public artist; Kong, a Chinese American filmmaker; and Yu, a Chinese American multimedia artist, shared similar experiences of social injustice towards people of Asian descent.Two of the three founders were raised by low-income Chinese immigrants. Their upbringing directly influenced their art making and motivated the establishment of a brigade to address the issues of racial, social, economic inequities faced by Asian Americans. More specifically, Chinatown Art Brigade seeks to fight against displacement and gentrification of Chinatown in New York City.
Tomie Arai is an Asian American artist and community activist who was born, raised, and is still active in New York City.
As artists, Arai, Kong, and Yu recognized the power of art in advancing social justice.For this reason, CAB is fueled by the belief that social, economic, and political issues that affect people’s daily lives are central to any art making process. The artists believe that art is crucial as a means of communicating inequalities through an effective, universal, visual language that can be applied to and understood by various communities.
Including the co-founders, sixteen core members of different gender, age, and ethnic background form this cultural collective in collaboration with a large team from CAAAV’s Chinatown Tenant Association as well as volunteer groups.
Within a year the Brigade gained support from programs, including A Blade of Grass Fellowship, Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, Asian Women Giving Circle, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's Creative Engagement.
The Asian Women Giving Circle (AWGC) is a philanthropic organization founded in 2005 and led by Asian women. It is a donor advised fund of the Ms. Foundation for Women. The giving circle consists of Asian women in New York who put monetary resources together in order to invest in various projects. They give support to artistic and cultural projects led by women in New York City which are designed to enact social transformation, raise awareness of critical issues pertaining to Asian American females and to promote women's roles as creators, leaders and managers. On average, the two dozen or so members each raises about $2,500 every year to be donated to the pool of resources the giving circle uses in order to support various projects. The founder, Hali Lee, stresses that it is important for members to learn to raise money, because by learning to raise money, members gain an important skill set. The AWGC is formally organized, soliciting proposals for grants and allowing members of the group to vote on the recipients of the money.
#ChinatownNot4Sale (August 19) and Here To Stay (September 24) are a series of video projections created with the intention of building conversation and organization within the Chinatown community. The works were projected onto several landmark and public buildings in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Chinatown. The work featured photo and video (primarily text montages in English and Chinese) centered on addressing gentrification, displacement of low-income tenants, and community resilience. In addition to photo and video, “Here To Stay” also featured “The people’s pad” where bystanders were welcomed to write their own messages on paper which were later projected. On October 21, 2016 the organization also held a talk titled #ChinatownNot4Sale to discuss the role of art galleries in gentrification and community involvement in their prevention.
In October 2017, the collective received media attention for their protests against artist Omer Fast’s exhibition at the James Cohan Gallery in the Lower East Side. The gallery was re-designed by Fast as an attempt to transform the gallery into its state before gentrification. The gallery featured “a yellow awning with faded English and Chinese characters in red, folding chairs arranged on a scuffed-up floor with mismatched linoleum tiles, red lanterns hanging from the ceiling, and a grocery cart with a black plastic bag tied to it.”This garnered backlash and subsequent protests from Chinatown communities including the Chinatown Art Brigade, Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence, and Decolonize This Place, whom organized two protests in response. The protesters occupied the gallery and surrounding area with bullhorns and signs, many of which were left and taped inside the gallery. In a statement by CAB the gallery has been called “a hostile act towards communities on the front lines fighting tenant harassment, cultural appropriation and erasure. The conception and installation of this show reifies racist narratives of uncleanliness, otherness and blight that have historically been projected onto Chinatown.”
Despite actions by protestors the gallery defended Fast and the gallery remained open until its last day. Subsequently, after the gallery’s statement, Fast himself released a statement apologizing but defending his choices, choosing to leave the protestors signs inside the gallery.
Manhattan's Chinatown is a neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, New York City, bordering the Lower East Side to its east, Little Italy to its north, Civic Center to its south, and Tribeca to its west. With an estimated population of 90,000 to 100,000 people, Chinatown is home to the highest concentration of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere. Manhattan's Chinatown is also one of the oldest Chinese ethnic enclaves. The Manhattan Chinatown is one of nine Chinatown neighborhoods in New York City, as well as one of twelve in the New York metropolitan area, which contains the largest ethnic Chinese population outside of Asia, comprising an estimated 893,697 uniracial individuals as of 2017.
Washington, D.C.'s Chinatown is a small, historic area east of Downtown Washington, D.C. along H and I Streets between 5th and 8th Streets, Northwest. Historically, the area was once home to thousands of Chinese immigrants, which has shrunk to fewer than 300 in 2017. The current neighborhood was the second in Washington to be called “Chinatown” since 1931. Originally, the first Chinatown was built in the Federal Triangle on the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue some time after 1851, but was relocated to the H Street area when a new federal building was built there. A Chinese gate was built over H Street at 7th Street. In 1997, prominent landmarks such as the Capital One Arena, a sports and entertainment arena has gentrified the area. The neighborhood is served by the Gallery Place station of the Washington Metro.
Chinatown, Boston is a neighborhood located in downtown Boston, Massachusetts. It is the only surviving historic ethnic Chinese enclave in New England since the demise of the Chinatowns in Providence, Rhode Island and Portland, Maine after the 1950s. Because of the high population of Asians and Asian Americans living in this area of Boston, there is an abundance of Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants located in Chinatown. It is one of the most densely populated residential areas in Boston and serves as the largest center of its East Asian and Southeast Asian cultural life. Chinatown borders the Boston Common, Downtown Crossing, the Washington Street Theatre District, Bay Village, the South End, and the Southeast Expressway/Massachusetts Turnpike.
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Omer Fast is an Israeli video artist. He is represented by James Cohan Gallery and gb agency and lives in Berlin.
James Cohan is a contemporary art gallery in the Tribeca and Lower East side neighborhoods of Manhattan, New York City.
The Asian Arts Initiative (AAI) is a non-profit organization in Philadelphia which “engages artists and everyday people” in order to address and explore the unique concerns and experiences of Asian-Americans. The AAI is one of the few art organizations in the country which focuses on a particular community and its issues such as integration, influence and “social context.”
Godzilla: Asian American Arts Network was a New York-based Asian American arts collective and support network established in 1990. Founding members Ken Chu, Bing Lee, Margo Machida, and others established Godzilla in order to facilitate inter-generational and interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration for Asian American artists and art professionals. The collective provided visibility in local and national exhibitions, developed press outreach strategies, published newsletters, and sponsored symposia on Asian American art. It was disbanded in 2001.
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The gentrification of San Francisco has been an ongoing source of contention between renters and working people who live in the city and real estate interests. A subset of this conflict has been an emerging antagonism between longtime working-class residents of the city and the influx of new tech workers. A major increase of gentrification in San Francisco has been attributed with the Dot-Com Boom in the 1990s, creating a strong demand for skilled tech workers from local startups and close by Silicon Valley businesses leading to rising standards of living. As a result, a large influx of new workers in the internet and technology sector began to contribute to the gentrification of historically poor immigrant neighborhoods such as the Mission District. During this time San Francisco began a transformation eventually culminating in it becoming the most expensive city to live in the United States.
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