Local artist and writer Shaina Lu talks about artistic activism and pays homage to Chinatown activists in an upcoming book

“The only thing that matters to me is that art happens with society and not for it, or even necessarily for it.”

Shayna Lu, a Taiwanese-American teacher and artist from Malden, Massachusetts, is working on something big.

Lo is what many people would describe as a “superhuman”, someone to be found everywhere, somehow doing everything; This person is extraordinary and creates feelings of effectiveness through his influential work and presence that inspires and benefits a group of people. Over time, these amazing and empowering moments begin to trigger practical and community-based social change. Most of the time, Lou does so with her art and nurtures her visual presence throughout Greater Boston, with work that can be seen throughout Malden and Boston’s Chinatown. Artistic and social status goes hand in hand with respected painter, often leading communities to seek her expertise to help develop visual and engaging art elements that can present and explore the complex social issues between Boston’s neighborhoods and identities.

During the week, the Wellesley College and Harvard Graduate School of Education graduate works as a media arts instructor at the Elliott K-8 School of Innovation in the North End; But this does not prevent her from being anywhere else. You can also often find Lu with Sifu and her classmates dancing for her Wah Lom Kung Fu Academy At various events around town, or you can help her with social issues. Now, the artist is preparing to release four books, one of which, published by Harper Collins, may have found inspiring ways in Boston’s Chinatown.

The Scope caught up with Lu to see how she did it and what it all meant for her, her art, and the community of Greater Boston. Portions of this interview have been edited for length and clarity.

Can you tell your readers a little bit about yourself?

I am a peculiar Taiwanese American artist. I always say that I am someone who is interested in the intersection of art, education and activism. This is how I explain what I do to children…I love creating community art for social change. Community art means that my art takes place in conversation with members of the community in the places where I live, work, or play. For me specifically, I live in Malden, the unlicensed lands of the people of Massachusetts and Pawtucket, and I now work in the North End. Then I play in Chinatown and worked there for a while. So my art is made through dialogue with the people I live with, work with and play with. I have done protests through photography and painted collaborative murals in the past, and now, my passion projects are writing and illustrating stories.

You do a lot of community education. You help people and organizations bring their inner initiatives and ideas to life through public art, event flyers, and other visual aids often dedicated to addressing social and racial justice. As an artist, can you talk to me about possible ways or conversations from art that you hope to include in these communities when you undertake these projects?

The only thing that matters to me is that art happens with society and not for it, or even necessarily for it. I think it should definitely be a collaborative effort. I don’t think art should happen to societies. Oftentimes, what I hope to achieve is to be an artist, and also, you know, whether I’m a resident or a member of the community, I work with other members of the community so that the art really feels like it belongs in the community.

I think the process for that is usually sometimes like art workshops where we brainstorm things, sometimes we draw things, we think about things and have prompt questions that we answer as a group. as a group, [ people that I work with] They have things they want their community to know about them or things they want to say; Next, we collaboratively develop a message we want the art to say. So, for example, working with CDC Asian Young people in Malden, we drew two key boxes together and some of the things they were thinking about where “We really want people to know that we belong in Malden, we as Asian American youth; we want them to know that we stand for racial justice, that we hear all of our values ​​and we want Malden to feel like a place Warm, welcoming and inviting to people of all races, ethnicities and nationalities.So these were the driving things that young people brought and wanted to express, so I worked with them to figure out the best way to communicate that.Through lots of conversations and brainstorming, we settled on one common theme and one on the idea really comprehensive [social justice] March [in the neighborhood].

Four new books under the direction of Harper Collins will be published soon, and one book in particular is summarized as one girl’s mission to save her favorite food truck and neighborhood from gentrification. Have you been inspired by what you see happening in Boston’s Chinatown?

yes! I’m so excited. Actually two of the picture books. But my book with Harper Collins is titled “Noodle and Bao”. I know the publisher called it a one-girl plan to save her community, but it’s really inspired by the work that community organizations have done. It has inspired what organizations have done in Chinatown in Boston and elsewhere. You really inspired me parcel c The story in particular. There are a lot of activists out there – I don’t consider myself an activist, I don’t deserve it – but these older activists are still around, and they are still helping and mentoring the new activists. they founded Chinese Progressive Association (CPA), and were CEOs of Boston neighborhood center Chinatown (BCNC) and ACDC that day, and that was a thing. Parcel C’s story is really amazing and inspiring to me.

So I was working in Chinatown. I used to be the director of their school programs program called Red Oak. I don’t know she’s a little over 50 years old [and was] It was started at Josiah Quincy Elementary School by parents and community members. So I like to also start the grassroots. I already have many Red Oak students in my school [in the North End] Now, which was the most amazing thing in a different context. When I was at Red Oak I took the kids on a lot of walks on their field trips. We’d look at the buildings and streets of Chinatown, and say, “Oh, what’s going on here?” What do you notice going on here in this building? “Why do you think the inkjet is made entirely of glass and metal?” “Who do you think these places are?” And I think the one thing that I thought would be cool is if we had some kind of text about gentrification that was cemented into a Chinatown-like environment; It doesn’t have to be Chinatown, but I would have loved to have accessible Medium texts for them.

I went to a banquet that my friends were organizing and hosted at the Bau Center for the Arts. They had us write down our wishes for the year, and I was like, “I wish or wish I could.” So, I started thinking about this story about housing, gentrification, food and innovation, rooted in some sort of Chinatown history, but I wanted it to feel somewhat universal; [so, the book] He has animal heroes and things like that.

This is where the story came from. Parcel C’s story really inspired me. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the building on Harrison Street. That mural painted by ACDC Iphone In operation, that building was identified – no longer – but slated to be demolished to become a hotel with an Asian-inspired lobby or something. I think this is no longer the plan for that. I don’t remember exactly what the new plans are. However, I remember when I was attending Chinatown Residents Association (CRA) meetings afterwards, I felt this really inspiring moment where all the CPA seniors and others, you know, were just sitting in Josiah Quincy’s cafeteria. They were all wrapped on microphones and were like, ‘We don’t want a hotel. We don’t want Chinatown to feel like a very temporary place. And it was really cool. I was like, ‘That’s really cool. You’re curated, just like speaking your truth in another language to all these developers sitting here. And I was like, I really want that to be in this book. And I want the kids to read that.’

How can people collaborate with you on an art project in Boston?

I do this on a very limited basis. My commission criteria are kind of like, “Do I like this, and am I going to enjoy every minute of this project?” And then I think the other thing is, I know, actually a lot of artists are like, “You shouldn’t take projects on social justice because they’re always like, you know, blah, blah.” But I am considering whether or not the cause is something I believe in or support. I do commission for robot Immediately. There was a bakery in Quincy called Contempo. The son of the original owner is now in charge. He was a CPA community organizer, and I was like, “I’m going to make something for you and your bakery.” So I feel our values ​​are really aligned. I love what he’s trying to do with his bakery. It’s trying to serve existing customers but also bringing different audiences to their food, and I’m like, “I dig that;” It’s kind of what the graphic novel is about.

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