Art, Culture and Belonging in Chinatown

Updated: Jul 7

Chinese Culture Center (CCC) presents bi-coastal artist Christine Wong Yap to explore belonging and resiliency in Chinatown. Through workshops facilitating community participation and online programs engaging everyone to share their reflections, Wong Yap's "Belonging" project supports the civic engagement phase of the Chinatown Cultural Planning process by capturing the individual stories of Chinatown residents and the neighborhood’s history.

The project was originally set to debut as a public education event presentation and community sharing at 41 Ross in Early Summer 2020. Since COVID-19, the project has transformed to be an urgent response to the unexpected surge of hate, decline in tourism, and other stigmatization towards the Chinatown community beginning earlier this year in January.

Working with the artist, the sharing phases has shifted to CCC’s online platforms to reach a broader audience and build allyship for the community. To-date, web programming has a reach of over 12,000 online audiences.

Instagram Takeover intro comic for Art, Culture, and Belonging, by Christine Wong Yap.

“I wanted to do something to support the community as shelter in place took hold. It’s become more urgent for the project to provide counter-narratives to xenophobic hate, to encourage the public to patronize small businesses in Chinatown, and to give participants opportunities to connect with and celebrate meaningful aspects of their identities and personal histories. Social distancing, isolation, and othering actually underscores my role as an artist: to offer space for participants to connect (even if virtually, or by memory or imagination right now) with the people, places, and cultural assets that help them feel a sense of belonging in SF Chinatown.” -- Christine Wong Yap


Spotlights for specially-created interactive bilingual activities from “Stories of Belonging” Instagram takeover

For the Bingo activity, participants engaged in a SF Chinatown Bingo online format that posed the question as to how the community physically engages in SF Chinatown. Responses being from special locations, events, or stores, that connect others to Chinatown. Those that participated were able to relate back to their time spent in SF Chinatown. This connected the audience virtually to each other through the significant relationship that we have with belonging to a particular location.


Through the What Do You Think about Art, Culture and Belonging in SF Chinatown online activity, the question posed asked how art, culture and belonging are embedded in individuals' personal recollection of SF Chinatown. This activity created space for people to ask themselves how SF Chinatown has personally impacted them and why it is important, leading to an array of responses of personal belonging and connection within SF Chinatown.


The Memento Photo challenged the audience to reflect back on their own personal memory of their family and culture through their own individual choosing of a special object. The audience was able to relate an object that played a significant role in their own understanding of how their own family/culture has shaped their life. Through finding a memento, individuals were able to access a connection with themselves and others through a virtual experience. The sharing and documenting of a part of an individual's family and culture became a symbol for reflecting on how the physicality of an object can have a large impact on a person's identity.


Animated dim sum table, from a forthcoming comic for Art, Culture, and Belonging, by Christine Wong Yap.

The online “Stories of Belonging” prompts will continue to be available for people to participate, and can be found collected in the highlights at the top of CCC’s Instagram profile: engage in 8 specially-created interactive bilingual activities about art and culture in SF Chinatown, sharing opportunities for creativity and connection in the time of social distancing.


Hopes for Chinatown (2020) Public Art for the Art for Essential Workers initiative

Most recently, Christine was invited by “100 Days of Action”, a collective of artists and activists, to submit to the “Art for Essential Workers” initiative to install printed artworks to be displayed in Chinatown storefronts at no cost to the businesses.

Christine Wong Yap, “Hopes for Chinatown,” 2020, site-specific public art: participation, hand-lettering, digital print, 80 x 148 inches and 96 x 48 inches. Commissioned and installed by 100 Days Action for Art for Essential Workers. Photo provided by Jeremiah Barber

Wong Yap found this project was a good opportunity to thread together with “Art, Culture and Belonging.” One of the questions she asked in the "Story of Belonging" survey was what people’s hopes and dreams for Chinatown were. Wong Yap found a selection of answers that are optimistic and addressed discrimination which she used in a design with the quotes hand-lettered both in English and Chinese.

Hopes for Chinatown (2020) is displaying at 735 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94108, right next to Portsmouth Square. Christine will also donate her artist fee from “100 Days of Action” to Chinatown relief efforts.

100 Days Action has gathered Bay Area artists to respond to the COVID-19 crisis with messages of optimism and solidarity. Interested businesses can contactJeremiah Barber at


The exhibition is scheduled to open Winter 2020-Spring 2021, incorporating the online portion.

For more information or instructions for participation: please visit Christine's website.

You can still submit your story of belonging via Google FormChinese version 中文表格.

"Art, Culture, and Belonging in Chinatown" is a project presented by the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco (CCC) in collaboration with the Chinatown Arts & Culture Coalition as the group envisioning a Chinatown Cultural District.


Press Coverage:


Supported by:

750 Kearny St, 3rd Fl / San Francisco, CA 94108

© 2020 by Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco.

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