Throughout its history, Philadelphia’s Chinatown—like many Chinatowns throughout the country—has faced encroachment upon its borders from development projects that have "boxed in" the neighborhood and limited opportunities for growth. With projects like Independence Park to the east, the Convention Center to the west, the Gallery shopping mall and now the casino proposed to the south, Chinatown has long looked North as a primary possibility for the neighborhood’s development. The projects that are part of Chinatown In/flux: Future Landscapes cross the historic barrier of the Vine Street Expressway and help the community to stake claim to Chinatown North.

Chinatown In/flux takes art outside of the traditional “vanilla box” of a gallery and instead situates installations in public sites throughout a neighborhood, mirroring our belief that art is integral to and integrated with everyday life. The title In/flux refers to the growth of the physical boundaries of the neighborhood, as well as Chinatown's constant flow of new immigrants and changing ethnic demographics. It also suggests shifting perspectives of the viewer and the viewed; and evokes the collaborative curatorial process used for this project, joining expertise from the established arts field with local community participation.

In 2006 the Asian Arts Initiative presented our inaugural Chinatown In/flux as a major exhibition with site-specific installations created by 7 artists at over a dozen diverse locations throughout Chinatown—from restaurants and storefronts to community centers and outdoor plazas—engaging residents and visitors alike to shift their perceptions of art and definitions of community. The exhibition was the culmination of an elaborate two-year process of planning and community involvement, which we have engaged in again for Chinatown In/flux: Future Landscapes.

The artists in Chinatown In/flux: Future Landscapes have been through an intensive selection and planning process, beginning with an open call in 2007 which generated nearly 40 applications which were vetted by a curatorial advisory committee including Edwin Ramoran, Director of Exhibitions and Programs at Aljira: A Center for Contemporary Art; New York-based artist and activist Tomie Arai; and Andy Toy from the Board of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation. The selected artists attended a retreat with Chinatown neighborhood representatives to learn about community hopes and concerns; and have worked over the course of many months to establish relationships with community partners, conduct outreach workshops, and catalyze conversations about the neighborhood’s development.

Chinatown In/flux: Future Landscapes is a timely exhibition for the Asian Arts Initiative, based on the organization’s own recent experience of displacement from its former home in the Gilbert Building due to the expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and the organization’s relocation to Chinatown North where it is developing a new multi-tenant arts facility that will contribute to the development of the civic corridor along the Vine Street. The issues animating the exhibition are thus part and parcel of our daily reality, and we see the Chinatown In/flux projects as a crucial means of taking a leadership role and shaping the Future Landscapes in our new neighborhood.

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