Friday, October 21, 2016
Chinatown Art Brigade Leads Environmental Tour of Chinatown

October 9th, CHINATOWN WALKS. Hosted by CALL, City As Living Laboratory.
Chinatown Art Brigade (artists) and Samuel Stein (urban geographer) will lead a "Placekeeping" Walk in Chinatown to help shift public perception of local environmental issues that go beyond pollution, dirty streets and garbage. The walk will highlight the environmental effects of gentrification and massive construction on the Chinatown quality of life. The walk will be led by Chinatown Art Brigade's co-founders, 3 native New Yorkers with deep roots in Chinatown along with Samuel Stein, an expert in housing and public policy.
Jean Shin (artist) and Robin Nagle's(anthropologist) WALK will highlight the often invisible systems and economies that are part of the ecology of Chinatown. Shin and Nagle will focus on recycling work done by canners, patterns of consumption, and hidden infrastructures of waste streams and labor.
(L-R) Mansee Kong, Samuel Stein, Tomie Arai

 Artist Jean Shin introduces the crowd to a man who runs a bottle-collecting stop in Chinatown around St. James Place. There is an estimated 5,000 women in Chinatown who dig through trashcans to collect bottles, which they sell for a five cents each to a "middle-man" (above), who in turn sells it to other states.

A participant speaks about the New York Department of Sanitation. 
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Multiple Exposure: Desire, Accumulation, and Transformation

Multiple Exposure is a group exhibition featuring works by Yaloo (Ji Yeon Lim), Kira Nam Greene and Soi Park, the three AHL Visual Art Award winners of 2016. 

"From digital video to painting to photography, the three artists employ vastly different media and process of working. However, they all share a common theme that touches upon desire, accumulation, and transformation in exploring various cultural nuances.

"Whether capturing a slice of contemporary life through the lens of media saturated Pop culture or the nuanced balancing act of immigrants trying to reconcile who they are at the intersection of contrasting cultural and sociopolitical economies, the works in Multiple Exposure present intriguing accumulation of multifaceted interpretations and perspectives" 

- Eun Young Choi, Curator & Director of Programs, the AHL Foundation 
(L-R) Artist Kira Nam Greene and curator Eun Young Choi

Artist Soi Park  and her series Young Jeong Sajin (The Funeral Portrait) 
Film still from artist Yaloo (Ji Yeon Lim)

By Kira Nam Greene 
Mello Jello, by Kira Nam Greene, 2016
 Watercolor, gauche and colored pencil on paper mounted on panel 

By Kira Nam Greene 

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Does Chinese Civilization Come From Egypt?

In response to the article "Does Chinese Civilization Come From Ancient Egypt", AAAC ED Bob Lee says: 
  This story of Egypt as the prehistoric source of China does participate in political motives as well, to use archaeology to undermine the ageless enduring notion of China and thus its formidable political prowess. Perception in politics is everything.  
  In a TV program on PBS The Origins of Civilization, historian Michael Wood wrote about the ‘Barbarian West’ - a perspective on the Middle Ages which could be taken as having a similar intent. Many moons ago in Hong Kong there was an organization whose long term goal was to develop evidence to prove Chinese culture came from Southeast Asia. Despite all of its minorities, the coherence of a singular set of cultural notions is remarkably impressive. To attribute this and place this development at anyone other than at China's door holds little credibility.
  DNA indicates Chinese people originated in Africa which I can accept. I don't know if this also can specify approximately how long ago.  The controversy about Egypt as the source of China however is likely to remain a controversy for a while. In terms of the cultural aspects of this question, what we know of its culture at this stage of knowledge production has distinct characteristics quite apart from those that constitute the profile of Egypt. I don't consider this issue implying these two cultures are in some fundamental way identical. Perhaps related, but how related has to be developed. 

 That traditional China has a unique culture and its presence midst the global family of cultures carries a special importance for us all. I don't believe the question of Egypt significantly impacts this understanding. How China's culture embraced the world has a unique stance, direction, tone, evolution and character.  This cultural knowledge may be enlarged but significantly altered, that's hard to see as possible, given the limits we all live with. 
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Friday, September 30, 2016
Special Meeting in Chinatown

A special meeting of Chinatown Working Group (CWG) was called by the Community Board 3, bringing together members of the Department of City Planning (DCP). It is rare to have the DCP come to talk. The community is very upset after working for 8 years to produce 197a plan, then having the city refuse to look at it. Now there is an agreement that CWG will change the plan to 197c plan, so they’re only looking at certain portions of the plan (3 portions). They now want to hear from the community about recommendations so that DCP can begin to process it. 

Edith Hsu-Chen, DCP 
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer

An eloquent speaker from Community Board 3 

Margaret Chin 
A noisy demonstration out on the street began early by some of the more left leaning community groups that have been participating in the last several years of creating the plan. After some clarification of what the purpose of this meeting was, a number of the Community Board 3 members spoke of how much they support the CWG plan and how they refuse to be forced by DeBlasio’s DCP department. Some say it’s been 6 years of work. Whether it be 6 years or 8 years, it is scandalous that the city would sit by and let Chinatown work all those years and now refuse to examine the whole plan. Their explanation is that it will take a number of years just to really process the sections of the plan dealing with the local Chinatown zones. And it would simply take too many years to cover the other sections of the plan that deal with outlying areas. 

Unfortunately this includes the waterfront, where major construction is underway. DCP’s explanation for why there are no regulations for low income housing requirements along the waterfront is quite obscure, but apparently DCP staff are locked into the regulations of how the city requires R10 to be up zoned to MIG (don’t ask me what that means or if it’s correct) status. However, that’s the first explanation from the horse’s mouth I ever got in 8 years. Some groups will hate me for it, however, it’s clear that DCP staff are working within their own limitations. The outcry from some of the members of the Community Board 3 on stage is that this opportunity to have this rare meeting and not discuss all sections, particularly the waterfront, which itself could totally transform Chinatown, is a bureaucratic way to fail in addressing the need to save Chinatown and zone it adequately. 

By 8’ o clock, when the meeting ended, with some sense of having been productive, the City, the Community Board 3, and those of us who have stuck through  so many years of giving time and effort to Chinatown’s 197 plan, went home outside PS130. As I left, many of the key people were still standing at the front of the school, discussing all the issues. 

Amidst all the protest and confusion, I was able to insert into the discussion how the arts can bring greater prosperity to our community. 

I thank Margaret Chin for staying there for the complete meeting, even into the night, as she has done since I’ve known her for so many years. 

- Bob Lee, Executive Director of AAAC
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Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Deputy Chief Jay Jonas Visits First Responders Exhibition

"I can't get over the detail." Then Captain Jay Jonas, now Deputy Chief in the Bronx, poses next to his finely detailed image in Yang Yi's "First Responders".
On 9/11, Jay Jonas and Billy Butler, depicted in red and green, survived the collapse when they were trapped on staircase B.

Asian American Arts Centre's photo.

Asian American Arts Centre's photo.Jay knew the names of so many of the people/firemen pictured. The civilians however, we still need people who might recognize them. With little English, the artist, Yang Yi, found these newspaper images and worked them into his compositions. He did this without knowing their names or who they were. Come to see the paintings at 16 Orchard Street, till 7pm, often later, not on Mondays, till Sept 30th, see if you know anyone depicted.

You can find Jay Jonas' 9/11 story here:

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Friday, September 16, 2016
AAAC Presents First Responders: An Exhibition by Yang Yi

Yang Yi and AAAC Staff 
Artist Yang Yi with local firemen

Ben Hom, firefighter who donated a talisman he found in the debris of 9/11 
Brenda Hom 

The Asian American Arts Centre presents “FIRST RESPONDERS”, a solo exhibition featuring the work of artist Yang Yi 杨亿. Presented in collaboration with Chinatown Soup and in partnership with Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation - CPLDC. This is a special exhibition to mark the anniversary of this moment in our nation’s history. AAAC is proud to present this body of work as both a commemoration and celebration of the American spirit embodied by all New Yorkers whose response to the events of that day will forever mark our national memory. It is fitting that as Americans we should find an immigrant whose remarkable skills and devotion gives to us the fruits of his heart and his labor.

Yi’s pentaptych took five years to complete, gives tribute to the brave members of the FDNY and paramedics, featuring all 343 faces of the first responders who were killed at the World Trade Center 15 years ago. Yi’s work has struck a chord with the firefighters who have previewed it, and the Asian American Arts Centre welcomes the opportunity to share his work with all New Yorkers, visitors to the city, and to the Asian American community.

About the Artist Yang Yi, 59, came to the United States from China in 1995 where he soon made a living drawing portraits in Central Park. Following the 9/11 terror attacks, many people would show Yang Yi photos of their loved ones who had lost their lives, asking him to create a portrait. In 2010, Yi saw a mural on the side of the Flushing firehouse that inspired him to paint a tribute of his own. Working out of his small apartment in Flushing, Queens, Yi took five years to create the five canvases presented. A portrait artist by trade, Yang had to care for his family while taking time off from his usual work to create a tableau of events and symbol’s from the city’s difficult days. Images of debris-covered survivors, the American flag flying above the wreckage, along with moving portraits of every individual face.

The exhibition is expected to travel later this year to Sumei Arts Center’s firehouse in Newark, NJ. Updates on all future events will be posted on AAAC’s social media outlets, including a link to a Kickstarter for this commemorative project.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016
A Room of One's Own: An Exhibition

A Room of One's Own: An Exhibition at the Abrazo Interno Gallery in the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center was on display from July 1st, 2016 until July 28th, 2016. Curated by Osman Can Yerebakan, surrounding ideas expressed in Virginia Woolf's long form essay 'A Room of One's Own'. In this essay Woolf discusses the importance of a private room for each woman to create, free of the constraints of the patriarchy. This exhibition is an attempt to create a narrative based on clear or unseen notions within the original text.

Below are several pictures taken by AAAC during a visit to see the show at CSV.

Flavia Souza's work

 Joana Kohen's work

Lana Abu-Shamat with her work

Lana Abu-Shamat

Selime Okuyan's work

Sinan Tuncay's work

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Robert Lee, Executive Director of AAAC, recently spent a day in Philadelphia and found the city to be thriving in passion and art. Here are some pictures from his trip in Philly!

I came across a Korean Dance Troupe from Korea, traveling through the US to connect with American people through traditional Korean culture. Beautifully danced, and the music was well done. Perhaps they timed it to be here during the DNC? 

Philadelphia has a Chinatown Gate. NYC Chinatown has been pushing for its own gate for years, ever since the BCLDC was established. AAAC exhibited a woman architect from China, Chen Xiao Rui, at that time who could build and ornament such a gate in the most authentic manner. NYC Arts Commission refuses permission - even though CCBA has money reserved to build it - because they are clearly prejudiced against traditional architecture. Chinatown seems to be thriving. Asian Art Initiative is on the adjacent outskirts along the highway, unfortunately not open on a Sunday.

I can only describe this mural as quite odd, one man in a submarine looking through a periscope, the other with a beard with beads praying. The small window or frame is on a perpendicular wall so this view seems like the two men are facing each other, both oddly in their own world, yet peering at each other.  
Perhaps just a property owners sponsored mural, pleasant  yet ....

This was the only community or artist created mural that had some sense of NYC

I biked a bit around South Philly. Saw the neighborhoods and saw a number of murals, usually large like this one, never much graffiti or expressions of common people like we have in NYC. There are murals posted here that reflect a very different city with a different city mural program at work. Some murals are quite ambitious and elaborate, others I can only describe as quite odd - an unknown civic energy at work.

Meg Salesman apparently was commissioned for a number of these huge elaborate works. I see no graffiti anywhere on them.

Near the location where the DNC were gathering, a demonstration/ritual took place. After seeing several street actions and incidents in Philadelphia, the significance for Americans of this "DNC" was something that clearly touched them. The meaning and the hope for their country was deeply felt, enough to move many to take the actions they did.

"I stand by my sacred ground." A demo ritual on the streets of Philadelphia. Yes, there was an Asian American women who spoke passionately in this circle. She is in the blue long skirt near the sign.

Small local farmers sent their representative to be present at the start of this national moment. To show support he gave us his card - I just had to make sure I did not move my bike too close else she (the alpaca) would not like it.

The march down South Broad Street was quite long and filled half the street except for the beginning which was pushed to the sidewalk by a row of bike cops. I noted there were few Blacks and Asians scattered among the marchers; some, like the woman pictured, were media people. When I saw on the side a black family with several children standing on the side as spectators, I felt this was clearly a cultural event of the mainstream.

Jennifer Fredrich is the artist's name, written in the left corner of this artwork displayed before the thousands gathered began their march down South Broad Street on Sunday. It was too large to be carried in the march without a mobile framework.

There were many different people who took part in the march down South Broad Street. This was one of the more unusual people. Unfortunately, I lost track of him in the march and did not bump into him again until my bus was about to leave late that night. Aside from "Feel the Bern", there were appropriate sayings for many political leaders' positions.

So many streets look like long alleys, and the buildings are mostly two stories.

In the window are what looks like home made crosses and an arc. So may ethnic peoples have moved here. From one Indonesian restaurant I learned that several thousand Indonesians came in in 1998 after the massacre of Chinese there. 

This family scene reminded me so much of Newark in the old days.

This gathering is not too far from the Cambodian Church

An exceptional corner home
A few of these narrow residential streets did grow their own greenery
This is the Asian American Buddhist Association. Below is a view of a mural painted on the side of this building facing a large parking lot and a major road so this quite visible.
Several small squares with fountains and public benches are here and there. This one you can see a blue donkey painted with a Puerto Rican flag...
and some casual musicians 
Translation Please!  In one of the better parts of So. Philly some people were  painting this calligraphy and preparing to make a film with a large camera. Perhaps a political statement? If so then this was the only graffiti I came across with some political/social intent.  
The Philadelphia Acadamy of the Arts, a seemingly crashed plane serves as their mascot stuck between its narrow frontage. Prestigious art schools here. 
A city sponsored art fountain for children

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