Christine Wong Yap
The Belonging Project, 2018-2022. Mixed media. Courtesy of the artist.
Nook Gallery Belonging community map. Site-specific wall painting.
As part of her residency in conjunction with the Creative Attention: Art and Community Restoration project at the Palo Alto Art Center, artist Christine Wong Yap asked community members to identify and map places of belonging in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, and the world. More than 350 people responded, with contributions that highlighted the importance of nature, family, school and community. Locations were identified around the world, in Mexico, Dubai, India, China, Vietnam, Europe, and many others. And Palo Alto figured prominently. The Baylands, Foothills Park, other parks and playgrounds were identified as places of belonging. As one respondent shared, "It is where my friends are. It is where my school is, and it is fun to be in.” Another contributed, "I grew up in Los Angeles in a dysfunctional 'showbiz' family. Hated it there. Came to Palo Alto/Stanford and finally found a home!" The Palo Alto Art Center was also featured, with the following notes, “We get to use clay!,” and "I feel I belong where art express itself and invite to express. Is a sharing place of creativity and life!" Perhaps more than any other location, home was identified frequently, with notes such as, “In my home, I'm totally free to live my life, to garden, to paint, write and connect with friends and family around the world.”
All of the belonging locations can be found on the google map here.
Belonging: Perspectives from Youth and Elders in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, 2022. Mixed media. Courtesy of the artist.
Download the Belonging zine:
Belonging: Perspectives from Youth and Elders in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto(PDF, 3MB)
Belonging Bandanna (Sasha), 2019-2020. Screenprint. Courtesy of the artist.
Belonging Bandannas #1–6, 2019-2020. Screenprints, edition of 15 each. Printed at Kala Art Institute as inaugural artist in residence at the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley. Courtesy of the artist.
Belonging zines and comics:
100 Stories of Belonging.
Alive & Present (Chinatown).
2017-2021. Courtesy of the artist.
Untitled (Belonging activity station), 2018. Wood, paint, letterpress prints, instruction sheets, art supplies. Courtesy of the artist.
Belonging Certificates. Courtesy of the artist.
Christine Wong Yap is a visual artist and social practitioner working in community engagement, drawing, printmaking, publishing, and public art. She partners with organizations to conduct participatory research projects to explore positive psychology or psychological well-being.
The Belonging Project started in Albuquerque in 2017, when Wong Yap was in residence at the Sanitary Tortilla Factory. The first iteration of the project culminated in 13 hand-painted signs mounted at places where Albuquerqueans felt a sense of belonging. In 2018, Wong Yap became the first Artist in Residence at the Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley. For the Bay Area Belonging Project, she collected and published stories of belonging in a 116-page book which launched at the Othering and Belonging Conference in April 2019. She also designed and screen-printed six bandannas based on stories of people carrying a sense of belonging with them.
Wong Yap recently engaged local teens and seniors in a residency project focused on places of belonging in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, resulting in a site-specific Belonging map that was installed in the Art Center Gallery in March and the publication of an accompanying zine. Wong Yap conducted workshops about belonging with 12 students at Eastside Prep and 19 participants in the Palo Alto Art Center’s Teen Leadership Program. She asked participants, “Where do you feel (or where have you felt) a sense of belonging?” and “Do you carry a sense of belonging with you?” After leading teens through calligraphy exercises, Wong Yap invited them to hand-letter statements of belonging, resulting in the artworks visible in the later part of the zine. In addition, Palo Alto Art Center teens interviewed seven older adults at Avenidas, asking them the same questions about belonging. The teens took reference photos that were used in a cartooning workshop to create the portraits used in the Belonging map and in the zine.
About the Artist
Christine Wong Yap holds a BFA and MFA from the California College of the Arts. Her work has been exhibited by Times Square Arts, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, WI, Bronx Museum of Art, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, and Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art in Manchester, England, as well as in Los Angeles, Portland, Manila, and Poland. Recently, her work was featured in a billboard and poster campaign by Avant Arte in collaboration with For Freedoms in London. An honoree of the 2020 YBCA 100, she has been awarded grants from the Queens Council on the Arts, the Jerome Foundation, and the Center for Cultural Innovation.
Interview with the Artist