Chinatown Soup is a creative community advancing art, justice, historic preservation, and civic engagement in downtown New York.
Inspired by the success of Detroit Soup, a non-profit start-up established in 2010 by two young women to benefit local artist initiatives through micro-funding dinners, Chinatown Soup built upon this interactive, democratic model to design an arts space for a neighborhood that has shifted from an immigrant-populated enclave to an emerging hotbed for real estate development and the new art scene. Drawing from the Stone Soup folk parable and artist-run collectives of 1970’s New York, such as Chinatown’s Basement Workshop and SoHo’s Food, we’re forming a new vanguard of social entrepreneurs that re-imagine how people can work together to live creatively in the 21st century city. This form of creative intervention begins with enabling cultural organizations to provide emerging artists with their first significant exposure, host residencies, offer studio space, and present public programming with strong commitments to local communities.
- Instill neighborhood pride
- Empower residents
- Enable people to establish new relationships and networks
- Integrate the arts and design with social praxis
- Democratize access to art through technology
- Foster critical dialogue
- Provide a deeper understanding of creativity
- Respond to gentrification
The Gallery at Chinatown Soup invites artists to participate in a new, intermingled facet of the city’s creative community that exists outside of “the art world.” When the gallery isn’t hosting emerging artist pop-ups, Soup exhibits re-contextualize artifacts and artworks to make alternative New York narratives visible, granting dimension and a fresh awareness to traditional understandings of space and place through radical storytelling. Employing multi-sensory techniques from video displays to oral history recordings, art meets activism to co-create and guide gentrification with respect for living histories. For us, “advancement” suggests a grounded and visionary approach to the arts, one that is both reflective and future-focused from a hyper-present perspective. This connective strategy is an example of creative placemaking, which proposes arts-based solutions to community challenges as economic forces and government policy drive real estate’s corporate-condo craze and displace residents. Chinatown Soup recognizes the persistence of a false dichotomy between residents and artists when the reality is that we’re all creative individuals. By opening up the limited notion of what it means to be an artist we find the ways residents of all backgrounds can experiment and innovate to preserve neighborhoods.
The Studio at Chinatown Soup is an underground space where presenters, performers, and patrons participate in culturally engaging events and workshops--from poetry slams to recording sessions to theater troupe residencies--on a rotating basis. In addition, this space is available for artist workstations and special-request programming. Inspired by the Basement Workshop of 1970s Chinatown, an upstart, activist organization begun by a group of young urban planners and artists that grew from scavenging discarded street furniture and benefit dances to spawning the Museum of Chinese in America, Soup's basement is a laboratory for everything experimental and conscious.