Christine Wong Yap (she/they) is a visual artist and social practitioner working in community engagement, drawing, printmaking, publishing, and public art to explore psychological well-being, belonging, and resilience. She has developed participatory research and public art projects in partnership with Times Square Arts, the Wellcome Trust, For Freedoms, the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley, Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, and more. She lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area, after a decade of living in New York City.
“Celebrated for her work in social practice and positive psychology, Bay Area-based artist Christine Wong Yap is known for deeply felt and thought-provoking textiles, publications, flags, billboards, and prints that utilize calligraphy and inclusive design to explore ideas around belonging and its relationship to mental health and well-being.” (Todd Lerew, Director of Special Projects, Library Foundation of Los Angeles).
Currently, Yap is serving as the 2022 Creative Citizenship Fellow at the California College of the Arts with support from the NEA. In her roles with Mindscapes—the Wellcome Trust’s major international cultural program about mental health—she has completed a new commission with the Library Foundation of Los Angeles and the L.A. Public Library, and she is developing an international exchange between New York, Berlin, Tokyo, and Bengaluru as an artist-in-residence at large. She is also the lead artist in a cross-cultural flag design project and public art activation in collaboration with the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, with support from an Open Spaces Grant from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation.
She has worked with, learned from, and amplified perspectives from diverse publics, such as Chinese- and Spanish-speaking women in San Francisco; seniors in midtown Manhattan; middle school students in Sheboygan, WI; residents and cultural workers in San Francisco Chinatown and Manilatown; and familes who have experienced homelessness in Albuquerque, NM.
Yap holds a BFA and MFA from the California College of the Arts. Her work has been exhibited by Times Square Arts (NYC), the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (Sheboygan, WI), the Queens Museum of Art (Queens, NY), Bronx Museum of Art (Bronx), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco), Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art (San Francisco), and Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (Manchester U.K.), as well as in Los Angeles; Portland, OR; Manila; and Poland.
An honoree of the 2020 YBCA 100, she has been awarded grants from the Queens Council on the Arts, the Jerome Foundation, and the Center for Cultural Innovation. The California College of the Arts was awarded an NEA grant for a project with Yap as lead artist. She has served as a visiting artist at Ox-Bow School of Art (Saugatuck, MI), the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and California State University Monterey Bay.
She has participated in over a dozen artist residencies and studio programs, including the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (Manchester U.K.), the Headlands Center for the Arts (Sausalito, CA), Woodstock Byrdcliffe (Woodstock, NY), Tides Institute and Museum of Art (Eastport, ME), Montalvo Arts Center (Saratoga, CA), Harvester Arts (Wichita, KS), c3:initiative (Portland, OR), Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (Governor’s Island, NY & Lower Manhattan, NY), Kala Art Institute (Berkeley, CA), Center for Book Arts (NYC), Sanitary Tortilla Factory (Albuquerque, NM), Little Paper Planes (San Francisco, CA), the Othering & Belonging Institute (formerly the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society) at U.C. Berkeley, Times Square Arts (New York, NY), the City of Berkeley (Berkeley, CA), and Palo Alto Art Center (Palo Alto, CA).
Reviews of her work have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Art Practical. Her work has also appeared in print in the Oakland Tribune, the East Bay Express, and Sing Tao Daily, and on the websites of Artforum, CNN, The Guardian (UK), KQED Arts, New York Magazine, New Yorker Magazine, Oprah, SFMOMA’s Open Space blog, and White Hot Magazine. She has contributed to books published by Montez Press, INCA Press, Workman Publishing, New Press, Routledge, and New York University Press. She is one of 12 “host-heroes of belonging” in Design for Belonging by Susie B. Wise (Ten Speed Press/Stanford d.school, 2022).
She was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she continues to live and work, following a decade of living in New York City from 2020 to 2021.
Born in California.
MFA. California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA.
BFA with High Distinction. California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA.
Selected Public Projects
Lantern Stories. Permanent installation of lanterns organized by Yu-Wen Wu on the 600 block on Grant Avenue, Chinatown, San Francisco, CA.
Juror. MFA & Affliate Artist Awards, Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA.
Curator. This & That
International Mail Art Swap. An exhibition and exchange between 32
artists and artists’ groups spanning the U.S., U.K., Vienna, Prague,
Hong Kong and Manila. Exhibited within Involved,
Socially at Triple Base Gallery.
I am a visual artist and social practitioner who works in community engagement, drawing, printmaking, and publishing to explore dimensions of psychological wellbeing like resilience, belonging, collaboration, and interdependence.
I partner with organizations to engage communities and conduct research to inform site-specific public artworks and publications. I prefer common materials and familiar forms to lend accessibility and abundance to elusive sentiments and abstract concepts.
My participatory projects invite participants and audiences to engage in self-reflection, social connection, or salient emotional experiences. My work is informed by 10 years of autodidactic study of positive psychology—the empirical study of human flourishing and subjective wellbeing. Guided by the principle of affirming the positive, my projects typically aim to increase personal agency and emotional intelligence. I strive to practice the values of accessibility, transparency, generosity, and reciprocity in my process.
I see my practice as aligned with the idea of “artists as researchers who can design, experiment, fail, innovate, and contribute to society’s knowledge production” whose “different kinds of questions and outcomes” can help us to “regain our sense of connection, agency, and empathy—which are vital to a just and sustainable society.” (Louisa MacCall*)
My goals are to become a better social practitioner, to hone my craft in formulating original, elegant, and equitable social entanglements, and to contribute new knowledge to the world.
An essay that weaves together philosophical ideas from Hegel, Edward Casey, and Kongzi (Confucius), with billboards and a project on belonging in Chinatown.
“As daily life continues to be disrupted, we can begin to appreciate again the need for recognition that places afford. The art produced by Wong Yap and her collaborators, curated by Leung, reminds us of the role that art plays in the formation of place, our identity within it, and our need to recognize and communicate this belonging between us. Places are dynamic, as people are, full of tensions, contradictions, scenes of joy as well as despair. We are all touched by the places we belong and, by belonging to them, are able to become who we are. There, in the places we belong, we might come to recognize one another again.”
“This year, CCC partnered with artist Christine Wong Yap for the Art, Culture, and Belonging in Chinatown project, for which people were asked to submit their personal recollections of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Through intentional art and educational programming, CCC hopes visitors and residents view the neighborhood like a museum, “where it becomes an interactive site to deepen their understanding and sense of belonging through engaging with stories, people, and history,” Leung says, cautioning that without care and activism, Chinatowns will eventually disappear.”
“For the campaign’s second part, launching May 15, more than ten established and emerging contemporary artists, including Jenny Holzer, Carrie Mae Weems, Mel Chin, Duke Riley, and Pedro Reyes, contributed images and animations to be shared during minute-long video rotations, with new releases over the next several weeks.
“In addition to the 24 massive Times Square screens donated by Morgan Stanley, American Eagle, Maefield Development, and Branded Cities’ NASDAQ and Thomson Reuters displays, the videos will be shown on 1,774 LinkNYC kiosks across the five boroughs, and 300-plus JCDecaux Screens in New York, Boston, and Chicago.”
“I wanted to do something to support the community as shelter in place took hold. It’s become more urgent for the project to provide counter-narratives to xenophobic hate, to encourage the public to patronize small businesses in Chinatown, and to give participants opportunities to connect with and celebrate meaningful aspects of their identities and personal histories. Social distancing, isolation, and othering actually underscores my role as an artist: to offer space for participants to connect (even if virtually, or by memory or imagination right now) with the people, places, and cultural assets that help them feel a sense of belonging in SF Chinatown.” —Christine Wong Yap
“The Chinese Culture Center in the heart of San Francisco, California’s Chinatown, is working tirelessly to support artists during COVID-19 and share examples of creative work on Facebook and Instagram. Artist Christine Wong Yap recently did an Instagram takeover to encourage everyone to practice storytelling as part of the Art, Culture, and Belonging Project, which invites people to discuss how arts and culture contribute to their sense of belonging in Chinatown.”
“Do you feel belonging in your local library, a neighborhood bar, a regular meeting in city hall? Or do you carry your sense of belonging with you from place to place?
“New York-based artist and Oakland expat Christine Wong Yap is making that often-intangible feeling visible—by identifying, commemorating and sharing others’ sites of belonging—based on a survey of nearly 100 participants in the nine-county Bay Area region.
“Belonging happens when people feel safe, seen and accepted, Wong Yap says. Her questionnaire, issued over a five-week period at the end of 2018, asked participants identify a place where they think to themselves either ‘This is my community,’ ‘These are my people,‘ or ‘I can be me here.’”
“Tucked into a library near the museum’s café is a glass-walled gallery housing the installation for The People’s Guide to the Queens International, 2018. This meta-collaborative project by Brian Droitcour and Christine Wong Yap departs from the possibly terrifying idea that everyone’s a critic—as well as Droitcour’s ongoing interest in vernacular criticism and Wong Yap’s background with participatory events.”
“As you proceed through the galleries, be sure to pick up a copy of The People’s Guide to the Queens International placed throughout the Museum. The single-page forms were designed by artists Brian Droitcour and Christine Wong Yap to stimulate deeper encounters with the works on view. ‘Anyone,’ they propose in the accompanying wall text, ‘can be an art critic!’”
“Over the weekend, an organization in Brooklyn called the Interference Archive gave away about five thousand stickers, three thousand printed posters, a thousand buttons, and almost two gallons of red and black paint that ended up silk-screened onto T-shirts, tote bags, and patches in the form of mottoes like ‘Don’t Mourn, Organize.’”
Selected recent press. For full list, see the C.V. Bibliography
My favorite way to learn about art is to hear artists talking about their work. So here are links to videos about my recent projects, and recordings of online talks and conversations.
Abundance, Connection, and Generosity | Artist Interview | Avant Arte
An introduction to my practice and a limited-edition artwork inspired by a dear friend in a collaboration between Avant Arte and For Freedoms. Filmed in the printshop at Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, CA.
Belonging at the LA Public Library
A short clip from a longer video about my project as an artist-in-residence with the Library Foundation of LA and the LAPL commemorating clubs or affinity groups, with behind-the-scenes footage of making banners in my studio. On view in the Something in Common exhibition at the LAPL Central Branch through November 6, 2022.
Creative Attention: Artist Interview
Overview of my project as an artist-in-residence at the Palo Alto Art Center. I worked with teens in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto to develop calligraphy, portraits, and a collective map of belonging.
Virtual Armory Live | Public Art: The Way Forward
Jean Cooney, Director, Times Square Arts; Michelle Woo, Director, For Freedoms; and Artists Christine Wong Yap and Nekisha Durrett discuss their current project Messages for the City and the role of public art in light of the 2020 pandemic and in response to the current protests against racial injustice. Moderated by Nicole Berry, Executive Director, The Armory Show.
Virtual Studio Visits with LMCC Workspace Artists-in-Residence
For a snack-sized intro and overview of my 2020 projects, check out my five-minute artist’s talk (43:43)... (Then check out the other nine talented artists.)
During the 2020 Open House New York Weekend, LMCC hosted two live, Virtual Studio Visits, each featuring five members of the current Workspace artist residency cohort.
Add Oil, Chinatown! Artist Talk on Public Art & Neighborhood Recovery
A two-part series on public art’s role in Chinatown San Francisco. What’s the role of art during a time of crisis? How can artists participate in neighborhood recovery? Presented by the Chinese Culture Center in collaboration with 100 Days Action. With Hoi Leung, curator, and Jeremiah Barber, artist and member of 100 Days Action.
Curator Shannon R. Stratton leads a round-robin discussion with the artists participating in Between You and Me, an exhibition at the John Michael Kohler Art Center. Artists: Chloë Bass, Sara Clugage, General Sisters (Dana Bishop-Root and Ginger Brooks Takahashi), Lisa Jarrett and Harrell Fletcher (Harriet Tubman Center for Expanded Curatorial Practice), John Preus, Benjamin Todd Wills, and Christine Wong Yap.
Unfinished Live: Democracy & Voice
[I do not appear in this video, but my art does. I couldn’t be more honored to have my work be a spark in this conversation.]
Eric Liu asks Yo-Yo Ma to respond to the question in my billboard, “How do you keep your heart open?” Part of 2020 Awakening, a collaboration between Unfinished and For Freedoms.