Under the aegis of the Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco, Chinese Culture Center (CCC) is one of the leading and most prominent cultural and arts institutions in the city of San Francisco.
The mission of the CCC is dedicated to elevating underserved communities and giving voice to equality through education and contemporary art.
Founded in 1965, Chinese Culture Foundation opened its primary program site, Chinese Culture Center, in 1973. Our work is based in Chinatown and San Francisco’s open and public spaces, and other art institutions.
In 2014, CCC opened 41 Ross, an experimental community art space located in one of the most historic alleyways in Chinatown.
CCC has five decades of experience embedded in the community leading complex public art projects and events supported by Grants for the Arts, San Francisco Arts Commission, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, among others. Recently, the CCC was selected for the prestigious “Our Town” grant funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.
CCC core activities are:
1) Community based, citywide, national and international sharing of innovative contemporary art through exhibitions, performances, touring and online projects housed in the CCC Visual Art Center. Its signature exhibition series are XianRui (Fresh and Sharp) to promote exceptional but under-recognized artists of Chinese descent, and Present Tense, examining current trends with emerging artists’s work
2) Community engagement activities housed under the Him Mark Lai Learning Center educates participants about Chinese American history and culture, and provides insight into the sources and inspirations of featured artists’ work. Annual festivals are Spring Festival, Chinatown Music Festival and Dance on Waverly, as well as year-long Chinatown tours for schoolchildren and visitors, and study-excursions.
3) Creative place-making approaches designed to make Chinatown a “museum without walls” through the use of public spaces for festivals and art interventions. “Sunrise” public art on the Dr. Rolland and Kathryn Lowe Community Bridge, Central Subway Public Art Murals at Wentworth, Ross Alley, and Walter U Lum Place are recent additions.
Founded in 1965, one year after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, CCC emerged in a period that stands as a tremendous watershed for American democracy. For immigration policy, in response to the calls for racial equality that were the hallmark of the Civil Rights Movement, 1965 would be the year that the US would lift its restrictive quotas on Asian immigration. While the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act – the first restrictive immigration law that targeted a single nationality – was repealed in 1943, only 105 Chinese would be allowed entry per year. In 1965, the quota was raised to 20,000 to be on par with most other nations, which would forever change our community and our society.
In this social context the Chinese Culture Foundation was founded as an organization that would communicate the humanity of our community through arts and culture. Eight years later, it would open its primary program site, the Chinese Culture Center in the then Holiday Inn at 750 Kearny Street, on the heels of dramatic changes in the relationship between US and China under the Nixon Administration. Notably, however, the opening of CCC was a landmark concession by the hotel developer to the growing movement in Chinatown over issues surrounding community land use and real estate development.
In its history of work, CCC, through its hundreds of exhibitions and public events presented to hundreds of thousands of audience and viewers, made significant strides in carrying forward its earlier mission to present and promote Chinese culture to an ever expanding audience both here in the US and internationally. It has a well-earned reputation as the organization that introduced and created a space for the work of contemporary artists from China, and in so doing, worked against the common perception that Chinese culture is quaint and kitschy. At the same time, CCC anchored a continually evolving arts community both here in Chinatown and the City at large.
Beginning in 2009, CCC began to take bold initiatives that would bring the organization to new levels of achievement. With a curatorial perspective that integrated innovation, respect for tradition, a sense of the power of place, and a commitment to engagement with the local community, CCC embarked on a new course. Most notably, it began to seek opportunities throughout the neighborhood for the presentation of art, from Portsmouth Square as the “living room of Chinatown”, to vacant storefronts, to Chinatown’s network of alleyways, through which the community’s lifeblood flows.. Moreover, CCC engaged artists steeped in a social practice approach to art-making such as the renowned Xu Tan of the ground-breaking Big Tail Elephant +collective that influenced the course of contemporary arts in China in the 1990s, installation artist and Chinese martial artist Justin Hoover, and installation artist Summer Mei-Ling Lee to work with residents and youth in fashioning “Our Town” as a shared creative vision in art.
Solidarity & Values
CCC’s policies are driven by our deep commitment to racial justice rooted in the organization’s and our peoples’ experiences with xenophobia and racism, as well as our community’s mobilizations against those forces. We were founded as a cultural anchor in Chinatown by Chinese American activists coming out of the civil rights movement in order to combat inequity by transforming dominant and regressive narratives about our community.
Our immediate mission is focused on Chinese diasporic communities, and because of the activist history through which we were founded, we make connections between that immediate root and pan-ethnic Asian American communities and in solidarity with other communities of color. While a third of San Francisco is Asian American, because of funding inequities and white supremacist culture, there are still relatively few artistic opportunities to tell our community’s stories; which in turn means there are few narratives that connect Asian American experiences to struggles for justice and the stories of people of color more broadly.