New exhibition opens September 21. Advanced Reservations Required.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021
Five children in front of low brick wall
Five seated boys looking at a book

Power of Community: Chinatown Then and Now

September 21 to October 20, 2021

San Francisco State University’s Fine Arts Gallery presents Power Of Community: Chinatown Then and Now, an exhibition welcoming back students and the greater community to the University’s main campus. The Fine Arts Gallery’s exhibition focuses on the people of Chinatowns across North America, with a special spotlight on San Francisco. It features historic work from Benjamen Chinn, and contemporary works by Lenore Chinn, Chinatown Pretty (Andria Lo and Valerie Luu), Chinatown Alleyway Tours, and MACRO WAVES.

In solidarity with Stop AAPI Hate and other groups countering the current violence against AAPI people in our Bay Area and across the country, Power of Community: Chinatown Then and Now celebrates the joy and longevity of these incredible neighborhoods through multigenerational works spanning from the 1940s to the present.

After serving as a photographer for the US Army Air Corps during WWII Benjamen Chinn (1921–2009) enrolled in the new fine art photography program at San Francisco at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, with teachers that included Ansel Adams, Minor White, and Edward Weston. During this time Chinn, a lifelong resident of San Francisco’s Chinatown, began documenting his neighborhood. This presentation features street scenes from Chinatown during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Contemporary artist Lenore Chinn has been documenting the art and culture of San Francisco’s Chinatown for decades through her dynamic street photography. An artist working in diverse media, and a community activist and archivist, Lenore Chinn is also the niece of Benjamen Chinn.

The collaborative team of photographer Andria Lo and writer Valerie Luu are behind Chinatown Pretty, a project documenting the street style of the elders who live and grocery shop in Chinatowns across North America. Portraits are accompanied by stories told to the two artists, about personal histories and life in Chinatown.

Chinatown Alleyway Tours (CAT) is a youth program sponsored by the Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC). Pre-pandemic local high school students brought in-person tours through the back alleyways of San Francisco’s Chinatown, sharing the history and cultural legacy of their neighborhood. With the 2020 lockdown the group turned to its allies and alumni to re-create Chinatown within the video game Minecraft. They now offer guided tours within game.

MACRO WAVES is an Oakland-based art collective composed of multidisciplinary artists and designers of color who specialize in producing immersive experiences through conceptual art, new media and design. We are working with three collective members, Robin David, Dominic Cheng, and Jeffrey Yip, to present Alter-n8 Realm, the group’s augmented reality tour of family altars in San Francisco’s Chinatown. During the lockdown MACRO WAVES worked with five Chinatown business owners to learn their stories and document their in-store Qinging family altars. Each vendor was then paired with an artist who created a site-specific augmented reality altar for the space.

At this time visits to the gallery must be reserved in advance. To make a reservation use this link.

To join us at our Closing Reception on Saturday, October 16th from 1pm to 3pm make a reservation here.

image credit: Lenore Chinn (color image), Benjamen Chinn (black and white image)