The Welcome Club at Lee Newcomer was a community-based, social practice project that bridged two groups of students: students studying art, illustration, design, and curatorial practice at the California College of the Arts (CCA), and students at Lee Newcomer School (LNS), a public, one-year, K–5 language program serving recent Chinese immigrants in San Francisco Chinatown.
The goals were to welcome newcomers to San Francisco, make something positive happen, and connect with each other.
I collaborated with key staff at CCA and LNS. Together, we organized an encounter for the two groups to get to know each other via video chat. Then I invited CCA students to use their superpowers of art-making and creativity to create custom activity sheets especially for the elementary school students. For example, after the elementary students shared their favorite animals, Cami Morgan created a coloring sheet depicting those animals. I delivered the printed activity sheets with art supplies to Lee Newcomer staff to distribute to students. I organized a follow-up encounter for the students to share their completed sheets and feedback.
I was invited by CCA to develop a project to foster belonging. Students everywhere were feeling isolated due to remote learning during the pandemic. I knew that acts of service can foster connection, purpose, and belonging. I also knew that forty percent of CCA’s enrollment are Chinese nationals. I’ve been working to increase langauge accessibility in my projects, so I see Mandarin fluency as an asset. Simultaneously, rising anti-Asian hate left many people feeling afraid and unsure how to respond. This project was a structure to connect two groups, facilitate cross-cultural dialogues, and foster a sense of welcoming, visibility, and being part of something greater than oneself.
By chance, I delivered the kits in the first week that schools were reopening for in-person learning. The kits were positioned to welcome newcomers to San Francisco, and back to their school.
In the spirit of generosity, the activity kits are freely downloadable for youth, educators, and parents/guardians to print for non-monetary personal or classroom use only (PDF, 4.1 MB). Activity sheets are the intellectual property of the contributors. No permission to reproduce in print or online for any commercial venture or usage is granted without express written permission.
Thanks to the California College of the Arts, Jamie Austin, and Bryndis Hafthorsdottir. Thanks to Edwin and Anita Lee Newcomer School, Victor Tam, Yun Cecilia Li, and Winnie Lam. Thanks to all the CCA artists and designers, and to all the LNS student participants. Thanks to Jenny Leung, Hoi Leung, and Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco for connecting me with Principal Tam and LNS.