How I Keep Looking Up / Como Sigo Mirando Arriba / 仰望

Engaging 16 Chinese- and Spanish-speaking, working class, immigrant womxn, How I Keep Looking Up / Como Sigo Mirando Hacia Arriba / 仰望 was a community-engaged process and public art action using banners to amplify stories of power and resilience.

The project was developed in partnership with Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco (CCCSF). We invited community organizations in San Francisco’s Mission District and Chinatown to nominate women who have limited English proficiency and scant access to the arts for this paid opportunity. Working with interpreters, I led a series of six trilingual storytelling and design workshops for the cohort of 9 Chinese speakers and 7 Spanish speakers. The workshops involved community building, cross-cultural bridging, learning about resilience, and designing and creating fabric banners that represented their personal narratives of power and resilience.

My studio team lined the banners and produced additional flags and a lead banner. Wearing trilingual sashes stating their design’s theme, designers carried their banners in the 2023 San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade. We were accompanied by friends, family, volunteers, and Mariachi San Francisco, which played traditional mariachi songs as well as a Chinese song about immigration. CCCSF held a viewing party on the pedestrian bridge over the parade route, which we joined in celebration after marching. Our contingent was the first contemporary art project in the history of the parade, which started in 1851 and remains the largest of its kind outside of China.

How I Keep Looking Up / Como Sigo Mirando Hacia Arriba / 仰望 was on view in CCCSF’s 2,000-square-foot gallery from February 7 to August 4, 2023. Each designer was represented with a life-sized portrait painted on the gallery wall, along with with their banner and a statement in their first language followed by translations. Also on view were the sashes, video interviews, video documentation of the parade, project ephemera, and a supergraphic project map explaining the phases of the project. Takeaway coloring sheets with trilingual statements were also available for each flag. Designers spoke about the themes of their flag in a program attended by friends, family, and the public. Open for six months, the exhibition received over 20,000 visitors, including numerous school and community groups.

「仰望」是透過社區參與實踐的公共藝術行動,期望連結多語言、多族裔移民,創造展現他們力量與堅韌的旗幟。 被選中的參與者將會參與一系列工作坊,分享他們自身的移民經歷和堅毅自強的故事,學習設計技巧,最後將各人製作的旗幟縫在一起,並於2023年华埠农历新年花车巡游亮相!巡遊始於十九世紀,歷史悠久,是在公共場域擁抱移民文化的難得機會。

Cómo Sigo Mirando Hacia Arriba es un proceso de participación comunitaria y una acción de arte público que involucra a inmigrantes mujeres multilingües y multirraciales en la creación de banderas que representan su poder y resiliencia. Diseñadoras se están reuniendo en una serie de talleres para compartir sus viajes migratorios e historias de resiliencia, desarrollar habilidades de diseño y coser sus banderas unes junte a otres. Las banderas se desvelarán como una procesión a través del Desfile del Año Nuevo Chino de 2023, un evento con raíces en el siglo XIX, como una oportunidad única para abrazar la cultura inmigrante en la esfera pública.
 

Learn more about all 16 designers and flags at CCCSF’s trilingual webpage.

Be part of the magic!

I am currently developing a follow-up project to reconvene and activate this cohort of 16 amazing women. Interested partners, supporters, and talent, please email to imagine new ways of cross-cultural bridging and belonging.

Current & Upcoming

Visit P L A C E: Reckonings by Asian American Artists at the ICA San José now through 8/11/2024 to watch interviews with all 16 designers and catch on-the-ground parade clips.

See all 16 banners at the Othering & Belonging Conference, coming up April 25–27, 2024 in Oakland, CA.


 
Read articles in El Tecolote (1) (2), KQED Arts, Hyperallergic, Sing Tao Daily (中文), and World Journal (中文).

Watch videos: ABC7 news segment and KTVU parade coverage (50:30–51:02).

screenshot of parade contingent from KTVU with title, Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, and Fox 2 logo, with Live: Chinese New Year, and a year of the rabbit icon.


 
Christine Wong Yap and contributors, How I Keep Looking Up / Como Sigo Mirando Arriba / 仰望, 2022–2023, social practice, 16 banners, mixed media; dimensions variable (each flag: 47 x 35 inches). Developed in collaboration with the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco.

Designers: AiLan Xie 謝愛蘭, Cammi Huang 黃幸瑜, ChunMei Cao 曹春梅, DanLi Xu 許丹麗, Eduarda Cruz, Elsa Hernandez, Lupita Iraheta, Manuela Esteva, Marcela Escamilla, Mayra Alfaro, MiaoFen Guan 關妙芬, Selina Luo 羅玉蓮, YongYu Lei 雷泳瑜, YongYu Situ 司徒咏瑜, YuJuan Chen 陳玉娟, and Yurisma González.

Huge thanks to the project team: Hoi Leung, YY Zhu, Stephan Xie, Andreína Maldonado, Lee Oscar Gomez, Danna Kim, WeiKuen Tang, Huan Anny Cheng, Lily Kharrazi, Tung Chau. Many thanks to the board, staff, and volunteers at the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco. Additional translation by Lauren Huang and Lindsay Bartlett. Thanks to production assistants Alix Deane, Cole Chang, Elizabeth Travelslight, Erina Davidson, Jacob Li Rosenberg, Joy Brace, Kennedy Morgan, and Mrs. Ma. Thanks to community partners 41 Ross, Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, Chinese Progressive Association, Chinatown Community Development Corporation, Just Cause/Causa Justa, La Colectiva, and the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts.

Photos and videography: Aaron Stark, Andrew Brobst, Bridgette Yang, Jenna Garrett, Nolan Gonzales, Robert Borsdorf, Tung Chau, and YY Zhu.

This project is supported by Kenneth Rainin Foundation’s Open Spaces Program, with additional support from California Arts Council, California Department of Social Services, Community Challenge Grant, Office of Economic and Workforce Development, #StartSmall Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, Grants for the Arts, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Fleishhacker Foundation, Zellerbach Family Foundation, CCC Contemporaries.