Think!Chinatown, a cultural community organization, presents “A Place for Us: Reflections from Chinatown / 我們的歸宿”. From the grit of Mom & Pop legacy businesses to the joys of reclaiming public spaces, the exhibition explores the many strengths and vulnerabilities that lie within Manhattan’s historic and ever-changing Chinatown community. Displayed at Think!Chinatown’s new community art space, this exhibition is a celebration of the powerful sense of belonging and connection Chinese- and Asian-Americans have for Chinatown.
“A Place for Us” features photos of Manhattan’s Chinatown by a multi-generational community of photographers. Black and white street photography by Pok Chi Lau gives us a look into Chinatown as it grew rapidly in the ‘70s and ‘80s, while Cindy Trinh’s vivid large format photographs bring you into the joyous summer block parties on Mosco St amidst a pandemic that hit the Chinatown community especially hard. Deb Fong captures the energy of today’s Chinatown through dynamic portraits of Chinese Opera performers and dancers. Longtime Chinatown photographer Edward Cheng presents a selection from his ongoing series documenting the intersection of Bayard & Mott Streets – where Manhattan’s Chinatown community first formed in the early 20th century.
Throughout these photographs, curator Yin Kong weaves in writings about Chinatown’s history and its unique ecosystem anchored by family-owned small businesses and historic tenement buildings. The exhibition’s writing also explores the link between cultural activations of the neighborhood’s public spaces, the importance of street vending in this immigrant community, and how neighbors are fighting to protect Chinatown.
“A Place For Us” celebrates the recent publication of the Chinatown Commercial District Needs Assessment. Research finds that many immigrants turn to small business ownership to make a living, often because of exclusion from the mainstream economy. Undervaluing their own labor and working on slim margins, small business owners in Chinatown are in constant survival mode which makes planning for long-term growth difficult. Second generation children and other family members often hold important roles within the business, responsible for linguistic, cultural and digital translation for the older generation. The well-being of locally owned immigrant businesses not only retains jobs within our neighborhood but it also keeps prices of food and other costs of living affordable for our community.
“More than just an exhibition and a publication, we see this project as a step towards self-representation within the process of city-making — a process in which the Chinatown community has historically lacked autonomy. To improve community safety, a major concern in the neighborhood, we need enhanced lighting and upgrades in our public spaces. To keep our ecosystem of immigrant businesses strong, we need to push for our equal share of resources and protect our neighborhood from damaging developments like the construction of the world’s tallest jail. We invite our community to join us in advocating for budget allocations to address opportunities and challenges identified through this assessment. ” — Yin Kong, Director of Think!Chinatown & Curator of “A Place For Us”
The Commercial District Needs Assessment is the culmination of a year-long process of listening and research. Commissioned by the NYC Dept of Small Business Services, Think!Chinatown along with the Chinatown BID, provided on the ground research to create this comprehensive neighborhood report. This report identifies the many strengths, challenges, and opportunities to optimize Chinatown’s potential. Copies of the CDNA report in English, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese are available online and in the studio.
Think!Chinatown’s Studio is open to the public on Thursdays and Fridays, 3–6pm April through June. Community workshops and panel discussions accompany the exhibition. For the latest on special events and weekend hours, check out Think! Chinatown Happenings.
Exhibition Curated by Yin Kong, Research by Alice Liu
Photography by Edward Cheng, Alan Chin, Pok Chi Lau, Cindy Trinh, Deb Fong, Kyle Lui, Sheng Lin, Mischelle Moy, Bonita Lei, Nathan Ackley, Cal Hsiao, Adora Wang, An Rong Xu, Kyle Lee, Huayu Ouyang, Zeyu Duan & Jake Mautner
Curation Assistance by Meg Chew, Research Support by Amy Chin & Kerri Culhane
Think!Chinatown is a place-based intergenerational non-profit in Manhattan’s Chinatown, working at the intersection of storytelling, arts, and neighborhood engagement. We believe the process of listening, reflecting, and celebrating develops the community cohesion and trust necessary to work on larger neighborhood issues. By building strength from within our neighborhood, we can shape better policies and programs that define our public spaces, celebrate our cultural heritage, and innovate how our collective memories are represented. Think!Chinatown is the team behind neighborhood cultural programs like Chinatown Arts Festival, Chinatown Night Market, Chinatown Block Parties, and more. Along with our cultural programs, we host community engagement workshops and build resource libraries. Learn more at: www.thinkchinatown.org.
The exhibition ‘A Place for Us: Reflections from Chinatown’ will be on view through June, 2023 at Think!Chinatown at 1 Pike Street, NYC. April gallery hours are Thursdays and Fridays, 3-6pm.
Did you know that Chinatown is the recipient of eleven transformational projects as part of Downtown Revitalization Initiative? Read about the announcement Here.
While you’re there, you’ll notice beautifully personalized open-air outdoor dining spaces. This is part of Think!Chinatown’s project entitled ‘Assembly for Chinatown‘.
The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Chinatown’s Kimlau War Memorial as a NYC Landmark. Read about its history Here.
More events we covered in Chinatown Here.