PHILADELPHIA — Asian Arts Initiative welcomes a new cohort of artists-in-residence to the second cycle of its Social Practice Lab (SPL) program for 2014-15. The roster includes established Philadelphia artists Scott Kip, Dave Kyu and Meei Ling Ng, along with nationally recognized Houston-based artist Rick Lowe. SPL artists are asked to experiment both in a collaborative process behind the artistic work, and also in their design to facilitate cross-neighborhood conversation in a community facing rapid economic and social change. The Surdna Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts have provided major support for this program, with additional funding for Rick Lowe’s residency provided by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.
The program’s inaugural year (2013) resulted in a diverse range of projects, like Ben Volta’s public art installation at PECO’s Callowhill electrical substation (still on view) with Youth Arts Workshop students and Yowei Shaw’s pop-up audio playlist Really Good Elevator Music (available for download here). The second generation of SPL artists for 2014-15 invests in select artists and projects over the course of a year to further influence neighborhood social capital and the future development of Chinatown North.
For Rick Lowe of Houston’s Project Row Houses, the SPL appointment is part of a two-year residency to explore how the presently underutilized Pearl Street can be transformed into a dynamic space that engages the diversity of people who live and work along the 4 blocks of the alley. Lowe is in the process of working with Asian Arts Initiative and an array of neighborhood residents to design a revitalization project that will foster opportunities for the local community to share Pearl Street as a space for quality time.
Scott Kipjoins 2013 Social Practice Lab artist Dave Kyu to explore the concept of communication between neighbors with differing perspectives and agendas that Kyu began to conceptually mine in his Write Sky project (May 2013-present). Write Sky convened community groups to collaborate on determining short messages to be broadcast in the sky over Philadelphia by sky-writing planes (date anticipated for spring/summer 2014). Inspired by the Divine Lorraine on North Broad Street and the Benjamin Franklin House in Center City East, two iconic signage structures in Philadelphia, the duo intend to create a physical venue in the form of a billboard with rotating messages authored by different community members, allowing them a special space to communicate to each other and to the wider city. In broadcasting community narratives instead of a billboard’s typical advertising slogans, the artists hope that local groups will have the opportunity to be heard. With the neighborhood’s rapid development, Kip and Kyu believe that the creation of a channel for democratic public messaging is essential.
Meei Ling Ng’s art practice is centered in urban gardening and local food production. Blending nature, greening and art, Ng will take to Chinatown North with civil engineering projects like rainwater downspout sculptures and parklets. “I’m excited about the opportunity to use design, greening and art to soften the hard edges of the neighborhood,” she says. In particular, “Pearl Street is a linear canvas cutting through the neighborhood that offers so many interfaces for design installations.” Ng says that changing the local residents’ experience and relationship to the street could dramatically improve social interaction.
The 2014 SPL artists-in-residence participated in an orientation retreat in May and are currently in a preliminary research phase involving various forms of community service and neighborhood observation that will inform the project(s) they will carry out. As they embed themselves in Chinatown North over the course of the next year of their artistic practice, the artists will be supported in their work by a local resource team and national advisors and scholars including Aimee Chang (Oakland, CA) and Sue Bell Yank (Los Angeles, CA). In a process that combines building relationships and effecting positive change in the community and results in artistic excellence and innovation, each of the SPL artists-in-residence will generate various types of visual or performative public presentations in late 2014 and the first half of 2015.
Rick Lowe (Houston, Texas)
Artist and community activist Rick Lowe is a member of the NEA’s National Council on the Arts and the founder of Houston’s Project Row Houses. The nonprofit arts and cultural organization is recognized as a forerunner in the concept of creative placemaking with a growing campus in Houston’s Northern Third Ward, the city’s oldest African-American community. Project Row Houses is founded on the principle that art and the community it creates can be the foundation for revitalizing depressed inner-city neighborhoods. For more information, visit projectrowhouses.org.
Scott Kip/ Dave Kyu (Philadelphia)
Restoration woodworker and furniture maker, Scott Kip has maintained a studio in Chinatown North for over 10 years and serves as adjunct faculty at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He has exhibited at Marginal Utility, The Delaware Center for Contemporary Art and Fleisher Art Memorial and is a restoration woodworker for the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ. Kip attended the University of the Arts (Philadelphia) as a crafts major with a focus on woodworking. For more information, visit scottkip.com.
A graduate of Temple University Tyler School of Art, David Kyu is a project manager at the Office of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy for the City of Philadelphia and a founder of the Chinatown North gallery collective Practice. The gallery seeks to support artist practices that focus on performance, participation and experimentation. Kyu has shown at group exhibitions in Philadelphia galleries including AUX & Goldilocks, Little Berlin, Extra Extra, Ox, Nexus Foundation, and the Main Line Art Center. For more information, visit davekyu.comor practicegallery.org.
Meei Ling Ng (Philadelphia)
Multimedia installation artist and graphic designer Meei Ling Ng uses her art installations as a community tool for learning about preserving nature, sustainable living and organic farming in an urban environment. Much of her work is functional art integrated into existing environments or working facilities such as urban farms, using painting and found, recycled materials. The South Philadelphia resident is a graduate of The Art Institute of Philadelphia and Nanyang Academy of Fine Art, Singapore. For more information, visit meeiling.com.
Refer to the Asian Arts Initiative website for more information and updates on Social Practice Lab projects.
About Asian Arts Initiative
A meeting place, an idea lab, a support system, and an engine for positive change, Asian Arts Initiative strives to empower communities through the richness of art. We believe in a universal human capacity for creativity, and we support local art and artists as a means of interpreting, sharing, and shaping contemporary cultural identity. For more information, please call 215-557-0455 or visit www.asianartsinitiative.org.