About Chinatown Art Brigade

Chinatown Art Brigade (CAB) is a cultural collective of artists, media makers and activists creating art and media to advance social justice.  Our work is driven by the fundamental belief that collaboration with and accountability to those communities that are directly impacted by racial, social and economic inequities must be central to our cultural, art, or media making process.  Chinatown Art Brigade is collaborating with the Chinatown Tenants Union of CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities (www.caaav.org), a grassroots non-profit that organizes low-income pan-Asian communities around tenant rights, fighting evictions and displacement.

Background

In 2015, artists Tomie Arai, ManSee Kong and Betty Yu formed the Chinatown Art Brigade (CAB), a cultural collective that recognizes the power of art to advance social justice.  As Asian American social justice minded artists, cultural workers and media makers we have roots in activism and movement-building work. We believe that art, culture and media work must serve and advance these social justice movements.

Currently, Chinatown Art Brigade is a project-driven collective that is working in close collaboration with CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities’ Chinatown Tenants Union, a grassroots organization that works with (and organizes low-income) pan-Asian communities around tenant rights, fighting evictions and community empowerment.

As a new collective of Asian American social justice artists, cultural workers and media makers; our work is driven by the fundamental belief that collaboration with and accountability to those communities that are directly impacted by racial, social and economic inequities must be central to any cultural, art or media making process. Therefore we joined forces to launch ‘Here to Stay’, a project that includes a series of large-scale outdoor mobile projections that will address themes of gentrification, displacement and community resilience in NYC's Chinatown. Artwork based on oral histories, photography and video created in community-led workshops will be incorporated into photo and video montages that will be projected onto buildings and public landmarks in Chinatown and the Lower East Side. 

Our goal, as artists, is to join forces with CAAAV to successfully campaign for an equitable community-based rezoning plan that can fight gentrification and protect the rights of people who need affordable housing.

Our collective has grown over the past year.  Read about all of our amazing member in the Chinatown Art Brigade. Click here.

Chinatown Art Brigade Founding Members: Tomie Arai, ManSee Kong and Betty Yu

Chinatown Art Brigade Founding Members: Tomie Arai, ManSee Kong and Betty Yu

About the Co-founders

The founding collective members, Tomie, ManSee and Betty have deep roots to social justice activism, cultural organizing, and community arts engagement in New York City and NYC’s Chinatown.  Two of the three artists are children of low-income Chinese immigrant parents and have been actively organizing around labor and housing issues in Chinatown for over a decade. 

Tomie Arai is a public artist who collaborates with writers, architects, historians, curators, and local communities to create work that explores the rich cultural diversity of the Americas. She has designed permanent public works of art for the NYC PerCent for Art Program, The San Francisco Arts Commission, the MTA Arts for Transit Program, the NYC Board of Education and the US General Services Administration Art in Architecture Program.  Her latest public commission will be an architectural glass mural for the new Central Subway Station in San Francisco Chinatown, sponsored by the SF MTA.

ManSee Kong creates films and videos inspired by stories of liberation and justice from grassroots organizing campaigns and narratives grounded in social movements. Current directorial projects include a feature documentary about Pvt. Danny Chen, a 19 year-old who died after being racially and physically hazed by fellow soldiers during his deployment in Afghanistan, and “Chinatown Tenant Stories”, a video series about gentrification and displacement through the voices of low-income immigrant residents of Manhattan Chinatown.

Betty Yu  is a multimedia artist, filmmaker, educator and activist raised in Sunset Park, Brooklyn to Chinese immigrant parents. Ms. Yu's documentary “Resilience” about her garment worker mother fighting sweatshop conditions, screened at national and international film festivals including the Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival.  Yu’s multi-media installation, “The Garment Worker” was featured at Tribeca Film Institute’s Interactive. She worked with housing activists and artists to co-create "Monument to Anti-Displacement Organizing" that was featured in the Agitprop! show at Brooklyn Museum. Betty was a 2012 Public Artist-in-Resident and received the 2016 SOAPBOX Artist Award from Laundromat Project.  In 2017, Ms. Yu was awarded several artist residences from institutions such as the International Studio & Curatorial Program & Skidmore's Documentary Studies Collaborative. Betty won the 2017 Aronson Journalism for Social Justice Documentary Award for her film, "Three Tours" Ms. Yu holds a BFA from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and a MFA in Integrated Media Arts from Hunter College.  Betty is also an adjunct professor at various colleges, teaching new media, art and video production. In addition Betty Yu sits on the boards of Third World Newsreel and Working Films, two progressive documentary film organizations.