• An Ode to Basement Workshop 1971–86
    Sharon Leung

"54 Elizabeth Street, NYC, Basement Workshop," 1971. Digitized photograph. Basement Workshop Records of Arlan Huang; Courtesy Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University. Photo: Hoyt Soohoo

Basement Workshop (1971–86) was the first Asian American political arts organization in New York City. The Chinatown Report 1969, which inspired the group to form, was the first study of its kind that focused on Manhattan’s Chinatown. This project seeks to expand the understanding of 1970s resistance art by exposing this underrepresented cultural movement. Beyond their visual artifacts, Basement Workshop offered engagements across six different spaces in Chinatown over 15 years. The relationships formed in these workshops were a catalyst and mobilized many organizations that are critical in understanding the Asian American artist experience today. The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) and Godzilla: Asian American Artist Network both have their beginnings at Basement Workshop. The collective’s work is instrumental in understanding the flourishing of the Asian American artist identity in New York City and beyond. This study will unearth their story, tracing and mapping people, locations, and legacies, ultimately showing how foundational their impact is today.

Sharon Leung is a trained architect, researcher, and design strategist. She has been researching and practicing architecture since 2009. She holds a master’s of architecture from Columbia University and a bachelor’s of architectural science from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. While at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), she was the Visual Resource Collection’s curator, and executed a project in partnership with ArtStor and Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library which released more than 20,000 images of architectural plans and sections on Artstor’s online platform. Upon graduation she was awarded the William Kinne Fellows Traveling Prize for “Architecture Unseen: Modernism and Environmental Systems.” In 2017, she was a GSAPP Incubator Fellow at the New Museum. Leung is second generation Chinese Canadian and grew up in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.