In response to the massive gentrification under way in New York’s Chinatown, artists Betty Yu, ManSee Kong, and Tomie Arai formed the Chinatown Art Brigade in 2015. Their concern was that low-income tenants and small business owners were being pushed out by rising rents, luxury development projects, and a rapid influx of art galleries—and they knew the power of art to advance social justice. Immediately, the collective began working closely with the Chinatown Tenants Union to organize tenants and to fight evictions and displacement. The collective rapidly grew as other Chinatown-based artists, residents, tenants, and activists joined in.

Over the summer of 2016, the Brigade held Here to Stay cultural production workshops for residents, which included storytelling, mapping, oral histories, and “placekeeping” anti-displacement walking tours. In September, they used large-scale outdoor mobile projections for a Here to Stay event. Tenant messages like “Who did you displace so you can live in your luxury condo?” and “Who did you displace to open your gallery?” illuminated neighborhood buildings.

Karen Olson is editor in chief of Public Art Review.

From Public Art Review #56, where this article appeared in Projects We Love as “Here to Stay.”
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