Historic Higo Garden Hub

Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience

Funding Received: 2012
Seattle, WA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
November 4, 2013

First Hill Streetcar Project shows no sign of stopping even as the temperature cools and the rain starts to pick up. They continue to saw through chunks of concrete and lay down tracks, blocking off foot and motor traffic to The Wing and neighboring businesses. Even more disruptive, the City recently worked right outside The Wing on 8th Avenue resulting in street and/or sidewalk closures for the majority of this past month. Sunday through Saturday from 7am to 7pm, construction throughout Nihonmachi and the rest of the Chinatown-International District is deterring visitors all the more. While access to the Higo Garden (now known as Chiyo’s Garden) is accessible by the alleyway, it is still currently obstructed by orange cones and broken concrete.

Recent Wins
With construction marring the neighborhood’s landscape, the freshly painted mural under the Interstate Route 5 corridor—which cuts straight through our neighborhood—is a welcoming sight. Through Urban ArtWorks, a community organization that works with at risk youths to clean up the busway in Seattle's industrial zone with artwork, the section of columns along King Street, directly east of The Wing, has brightened up significantly. In partnership with the Chinatown-International District, who identified the space as unsafe, Urban ArtWorks has transformed these dark two blocks with a green/blue abstract underwater theme connecting neighborhoods of our district split by the freeway.

To help strengthen the neighborhood, The Wing is rehabilitating the historic Yee Goon Co. storefront, which sits at the corner of our building on King St. and 8th Avenue. We will create additional exhibition space for sharing APA heritage, culture and art with the public while also acknowledging the rich history of the building and storefront space. Our approach will capitalize on existing cultural and historical assets, create a new community anchor and also engage pedestrians, museum visitors and neighborhood residents in heritage and cultural programming promoted through the windows of a prominent corner space.

The Wing is committed to maintaining and forging partnerships for sustainable initiatives to preserve and promote the neighborhood’s historic value, offer authentic cultural experiences, and connect with the broad public necessary for the economic livelihood of Nihonmachi and all of the Chinatown-International District. Through The Wing, everyday members of the community are empowered to tell their own stories, create programming, build community and share their experience with others.

A recent example is our exhibition “Under My Skin: Exploring Race in the 21st Century.” This project has spurred community members to actively take part by sharing their personal experiences as well as historical, scientific and social perspectives on race through contemporary art. The Wing outreached to multiple neighborhood and cultural organizations for discussions and input which helped draw new audiences to our project and neighborhood. Recent coverage of “Under My Skin” included a write up in City Arts magazine and Parent Map, which stressed the importance of individuals and communities connecting. As debates continue on whether we are living in a “post-racial” society it is clear that the topic of race and racism is still very important which is evident with our community residents uniting across neighborhoods, cultures, and generations to raise awareness and inspire action through participation as an advisor, partner, and/or visitor. We often see small groups of visitors who gather around the Race Q & A table and Race Card bulletin board, jotting down their thoughts and openly conversing with each other though they have never met before. One message left behind for future visitors is “I’m 25% German, 25% Scottish, half Chinese, 100% American and wholly hapa. To some people, my biracial identity is not immediately apparent based on my looks. I beg people to understand—my race is based on more than my face. Please dig deeper.”