The WingSeattle, WA
Chinatown Development: Our Street Corner
The corner of 8th Avenue South and South King Street in Seattle’s Chinatown. That’s the corner of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, when we moved around the block to open our new home in 2008.
It’s a corner with many stories, some fond while others less inspiring. Bill Eng, born in Seattle in the 1920s just a few blocks from here, remembers playing hide and seek as a kid with home base a telephone pole at the corner. The Woo Family Association had their headquarters at the corner for decades. This morning, now that school has started, I passed by some four or five young kids waiting with their moms and dads for the school bus.
In the late afternoons, however, the stories of the corner are less cheery. In fact, they’re downright dark. A prime corner location for crack dealers scoping out the block for their next sale. A dangerous sidewalk crossing where a woman, here to do some grocery shopping, was hit by a turning car, herself and her packages thrown along the street. For some reason, pedestrians keep getting hit or nearly hit at this corner crossing – a woman last year, another earlier this year, a Museum staff member just this past month.
We haven’t had the resources yet – in time, staffing, finances, and perhaps in inspiration – to develop this corner in our Museum. For the last three years, we’ve covered its potential with posters, advertising our latest changing exhibition. I hope we’ll be able to develop it soon, making it an active place where stories of its famed past rise to the surface, creativity, inspiration and pride are sparked in neighborhood children, and yes, where it becomes safe, and the now all too familiar sight of drug dealers and news of horrific accidents are long from our memory.
Next spring our high school youth group known as YouthCAN (Youth Community Action Now), budding artists and our current-day leaders, will take a first step toward transforming the corner. Through their own gumption, they’ll be installing their artwork based on the stories of early Asian Pacific American laborers. It’s taken the artist’s vision and determination to pull back the paper and see what can be done. I, for one, can’t wait for the change.