Chinatown Project Update: Initial Artist Workshops

This June, CALL began to explore the shape of what our projects next year in Chinatown might take with events led by Jean Shin, Donna Mah, Mary Ting, Joyce Hwang and Prathap Ramamurthy. Here’s the lowdown on what happened:

June 8th: Jean Shin and Donna Mah, Taking Root Workshop at Wing on Wo

CALL partnered with artist Jean Shin on making planters using recycled plastic soda bottles. Prior to constructing the planters, the participants listened to Donna Mah’s presentation on the history and applications of Chinese medicinal herbs, while sprinkling in her own stories about living in Chinatown and learning how to reconcile Eastern and Western medicinal practices. After the presentation, Jean demonstrated how to make the planters and the college-aged participants were eager to roll up their sleeves and try it out for themselves. At the end of the day, the floor was covered in dirt and plastic scraps, but on the table, stood an eye-catching landscape of green, both artificial from the plastic and natural from the herbs. The participants made dozens of planters with mugwort and perilla herbs, some of which were taken home and some were left behind for the owners of Wing on Wo.

June 14: Mary Ting and Donna Mah, 21st Century Tree of Life Workshop at Educational Alliance

Architect Mary Ting led a workshop at Educational Alliance’s rooftop garden. Elderly members of the community listened to Donna Mah talk about the healing properties of Chinese medicinal herbs, which was followed by Mary Ting’s meticulous instructions on how to grow and care for such herbs at home. The workshop ended with the participants planting mugwort and perilla into milk crate planters.

June 20: Joyce Hwang and Prathap Ramamurthy, Chinatown heatmapping WALK

Architect Joyce Hwang and engineer Prathap Ramamurthy led a walk around Chinatown to talk about the ways infective infrastructures are exasperating the rising temperatures and negatively affecting Chinatown residents’ livelihoods. Using a portable heat-mapping gadget that connects to an iPhone, they were able to show the participants real-time images of heat being distributed throughout a building and the neighborhood. The walk led to Silk Road Cafe where the participants asked questions and offered up solutions to solve not only ineffective infrustructures, but also how to get the community involved in such issues. We spoke extensively on how community land trusts can help provide necessary improvements while preserving community identity in the face of rising property tax.

If you are interested in learning more about Chinese medicine and their history in America, we encourage you to check out the Museum of Chinese in America’s exhibit “Chinese Medicine in America” which Donna Mah helped curate.

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