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.
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.