Located in Philadelphia’s Chinatown North neighborhood, Asian Arts Initiative (AAI) uses art as a vehicle to explore the experiences of Asian Americans and the diverse communities of which they are a part. A multidisciplinary art center and community gathering space, AAI offers exhibitions, performances, artist residencies, and youth workshops that connect cultural expression and social change.
Rick Lowe is spearheading a revitalization project on Pearl Street, an under-used alley behind Asian Arts Initiative's building in Philadelphia's Chinatown North neighborhood. Lowe's groundbreaking work with Houston's Project Row Houses has long served as a model for community-driven, participatory art. Over the course of two years, Lowe will work with residents in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood to reimagine how the alley can be transformed into a place where locals of varying backgrounds spend time together. "I've always had an interest in Philadelphia," Lowe says. "It's a city where I sense you can get things done and make a difference."
Programming for this project commenced in January 2014, when Lowe began meeting and conducting workshops with community stakeholders on a monthly basis. Lowe's plan for the project is to invite several community stakeholders to design and build prototype amenities, which will be unveiled, discussed, and critiqued by the community at public events throughout the year. Asian Arts Initiative has also recently put out a call for proposals for the use of Pearl Street, asking community members to activate the space in a variety of engaging ways.
The project culminated in a catalogue featuring essays by Lowe and his Consumption collaborators, along with photos documenting the project and testimonials from community members. The events that take place as a result of Rick Lowe's residency will also be documented on an interactive website, featuring a digital timeline of Pearl Street's history as well as images and stories from nearby residents.