SPRING QUARTER 2002
Asian Pacific American Labor Studies
Asian American Studies 197B; class ticket number: 121-856-200
Mondays, 4:00 – 6:50 p.m.
Bunche 2168

 

Asian American Studies 197B
Spring Quarter 2002

Final Community Internship Reports
Chinatown Mural Project by Ryan Cheng, Ching Huang, Ken Ichiroku, Diana Luu, and Julie Yoshioka

The Chinatown Youth Mural Project began as a simple idea. Formulated about two years ago, high school youth from the surrounding Chinatown area embarked on a journey that would eventually become known as the Chinatown Youth Mural Project. The Chinatown Service Center, in conjunction with Arts Corps L.A., sought to promote community awareness and leadership skills among these youth by creating a mural to be painted on the side of a house located at 628 New Depot Street, in the heart of Chinatown. The core group of approximately fifteen students was divided into separate committees — Community Relations, Fundraising, and Design — each with independent tasks contributing to the completion of the mural. There was a strong emphasis on allowing these youth to create the mural themselves, developing the actual themes and concepts behind the final design. The mural also sought to provide a source of pride for residents and community members of Chinatown, as well as to involve youth in the recent attempts at revitalizing the community. Artist Steve Wong was hired to help guide the project and in April 2002, our work-team joined the project. The projected finishing date is July 2002.

Our work team, comprised of Ryan Chen, Ching Huang, Ken Ichiroku, Diana Luu, and Julie Yoshioka, was divided among the three committees to work with the youth. Ryan and Diana were placed on the Fundraising Committee, Ching and Ken were placed on the Community Relations Committee, and Julie was placed on the Design Committee. The Fundraising Committee was responsible for helping to raise approximately $1700 for supplies and expenses related to the mural. The Community Relations Committee was responsible for gathering community feedback about possible mural themes and informing relevant groups (inside and outside of the Chinatown community) about the nature of the project. Lastly, the Design Committee was responsible for devising the overall theme and images to be used in the final design.

Committee Reports

Fundraising Committee

The fundraising committee encountered many problems from the beginning. First, we had minimal funds to begin with. It was necessary that we diverse to work in conjunction with the design committee so we could have an understanding of what types of messages the design committee wanted to convey with this mural. Additionally, we had to keep in mind that we cannot limit their creative freedom and abilities. After talking with the design committee, we determined a rough idea of what types of paint and supplies are needed for this project. The first budget we came up was the amount of $1,700. We wanted to make sure that this amount could adequately cover any unforeseeable expenses as well as any types of maintenance requirements after the mural project is completed. Next, we consulted with staffs from SPARC as well as the Chinese Chamber of Commerce to help refine our budget and give us guidance. It was proved to be useful because we over estimated our project by $300.

With a more attainable goal in sight, we began thinking of various ideas to raise the funds required. We knew we wanted to involve the kids in this fundraising because we felt that giving them the opportunity will give them a sense of appreciation in this project. But we also realized that these youth come from underprivileged communities, which will make it very difficult for them to raise any substantial amount of funds. Our first idea consisted of flower/candy grams, which were to be distributed in their high school. Unfortunately, after deliberation we found out that the high school wanted to take 50% of the profits because we were using their facilities. Therefore, we decided to entertain other ideas of fundraising. First we contacted See’s Candies and World’s Finest Chocolate, but it wasn’t feasible because it required a large buy-in prior to our fundraising. Since we cannot fund the capital for this type of venture we looked into other ideas.

Since Ken was very experienced in this field, we consulted with him as to what to do. He spoke of previous experience with a magazine drive that he had done for his Nikkei Student Union group. Moreover, we contacted Jim Brooks at Campusfundraiser.com. He promised that our group could earn up to $600 within one and the half weeks with no capital and minimal effort if we sold up to 30 subscriptions. This seemed very attractive and attainable because the product that we were selling appealed to all age groups. On the first day it was met with a lot of anticipation and excitement. After the first week, we only accumulated half of our goal and it didn’t seem that the group wanted to continue this project. But the fundraising leaders, Ryan and Diana, realized how important it was to reach our goal. Therefore, we remained optimistic and persevere so that the group members would each do their part to attain our goal. We are now happy to report that we have finally met our goal and we are $600 closer to the budget. Ryan and Diana are still coming up with more fundraising activities to reach our budget. We all plan on rewarding the youth by throwing them a pizza party for all of their hard work and dedication. So far, the budget’s in good standing and we are anticipating for more funds.

 

Community Relations Committee

As students, we have myriad resources at our disposal. Perhaps the most valuable of these resources is the plethora of student groups on campus. A majority of these groups actively seek ways to get involved within the community. Ken is actively involved with the Nikkei Student Union and its affiliated organizations. As such, we began outreaching to the greater community, by first reaching out to the UCLA student community. Informally we met with leadership from several Asian Pacific American student organizations such as the Association of Chinese Americans, Omega fraternity, and the Asian Pacific Coalition. We gave them a general overview of the project, and its history and then informed them on ways to get involved with the project. In the initial stages of the project, we focused largely on raising funds and gathering materials. Many of the student organizations were unable to make financial contributions, but they were receptive to the idea of volunteering their time to help in the actual painting of the mural. After speaking with the director of APC, we were informed that we would be able to keep the APA community informed on the project’s status by getting on APC’s e-mailing list. This list delivers e-mails to all the student organizations that are under the Asian Pacific Coalition. We were able to make a formal presentation to the Nikkei Student Union, during their weekly staff meeting. This was an excellent opportunity to practice our public speaking skills in a non-threatening environment, as Ken was involved in this organization. Like most of the other student groups, NSU was not able to make any financial contributions to the project. However, like many of the other groups, several members approached us about ways to volunteer their time during the summer as possible community service.

While working for another internship at State Senator Kevin Murray’s office, Ken approached District representative Janny Kim about financial support from the Senator’s office. Although she was not able to help, she gave Ken the number for the City of Los Angeles’ Human Relations Commission. As a group we made a presentation to Patricia Villasenor of the commission. B ecause we approached the commission so late in their fiscal year, they were unable to provide us with assistance. They did however; provide us with very useful guidance as to which offices within the city we should approach. We have since forwarded her a proposal that gave the history of the project, and what our current financial need is. This proposal is going to be taken down by Patricia, to Ed Reyes’ office for consideration. Patricia and her partner Arturo were also helpful in giving us alternative perspectives on whom we should be outreaching. They noted that we had only contacted APA groups, and that Chinatown is a diverse community of Asian and non-Asian residents. They suggested that we contact some Latino community organizations and invite them to take part in this project as well. This is not a point that was not considered. We simply began outreaching to APA groups because of Ken’s familiarity with many of the APA campus groups. Reaching out to other groups has always been on our agenda. Currently, we are looking to contact the La Opinión community newspaper to place an ad and to get contact information about different Latino organizations within and around Chinatown.

In terms of reaching out to the Chinatown community itself, we have taken a number of steps to achieve this goal. To begin, we have created a flyer that gives general information concerning the project. This flyer will be translated into both English and Spanish, and will be distributed throughout Chinatown. For those residents who have Internet access, we (the community relations committee) have created a Website that gives more detailed information about the mural itself, and the history behind the youth that are involved, and of the YLC. We have also gone into the community to conduct interviews with many community residents to gain feedback on the possible themes to be included in the mural. This was particularly difficult for a number of reasons. First, the design has yet to be solidified. Therefore, when presenting to various community members, all concepts were at best, a maybe. There were no concrete themes to be presented. Any idea presented could have been removed at a moment’s notice. Secondly, outreaching to the community was difficult because many of the residents did not want to talk with us. This may have been for a variety of reasons, but I believe the most pervasive was the lack of English proficiency on their part, and the lack of Chinese proficiency on ours.

As we are getting closer to painting the mural itself, we are taking over the functions of media relations. We are currently in the process of putting together a press kit in order for us to present it to community and mainstream media. We are hoping that through the media we are able to outreach to more people to let them know about the mural. And last, Ching has gone to his former high school to recruit more students to participate in the project. The project will be like a summer activity for them and at the same time they are doing something that is meaningful not only to themselves but also to the community at large.

 

Design Committee

As of mid-June 2002, the Design Committee created the preliminary mural design. The main theme of the mural was developed as "Chinatown: Representing Old and New," and focused on six separate categories; Immigration and Labor, Cultural Activities/Community/Youth, Place/Architecture, Historical Events, Asian American Activism/Resistance to Oppression, and Symbolism. Throughout the development of the project, committee members were each responsible for sketching images for the respective categories. They were also responsible for gathering photographs and other images to use in the mural. This required researching Asian-American history, going to the Chinese-American Museum, and taking pictures of local residents/locales. There was also a strong concern about including Asian-American history in the design, not necessarily just Chinese-American history. This was in response to the changing demographics of Chinatown — which has shifted from a previously dominant Chinese population to an influx of Vietnamese, Latino, and African-American residents. As a result, the committee found it important to include pan-ethnic themes. After all of the material was gathered, group members came together to set them as the preliminary design.

There was a setback in setting the final design, as it was difficult to decide on certain concepts/images as well as to gather the required group consent to include these images in the mural. This also delayed the rest of the committees, since they required the preliminary design to move forward on their final tasks. By mid-June 2002, however, the design committee finally set the preliminary design and forwarded it to the Community Relations committee to gather feedback from the community. After the Community Relations committee gathers this information, the design will be altered accordingly. Gridding and painting of the mural is expected to be completed by July 2002.

 

Conclusion

The Chinatown Youth Mural Project is still in progress. All work team members have agreed to continue with the project even though the Spring 2002 quarter has neared an end. There are still a variety of tasks to be completed: Fundraising is still coming up with other money-making activities for this summer in order to reach the ultimate monetary goal, Community Outreach is still gathering feedback and informing additional community groups as well as trying to recruit volunteers to help paint the mural, Design will set the final design after such feedback is gathered.

This project has served as a vehicle for us to learn more about the Chinatown community, importance of youth empowerment and awareness, and teamwork. It required a lot of collaboration, compromise, and time in order to complete the mural. It also provided a unique learning experience for us all. The requirement to actively participate in the community didn’t follow conventional class structures. As a result, we saw first hand the cause and effect of student involvement in the community. Our initial assumptions of the mural changed significantly throughout the course of the project. Many of our original plans didn’t go through as smoothly as expected and we had to adjust our goals accordingly. Towards the end of July, we will paint the mural and anticipate for the unveiling of the mural.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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