What you do: Communications Manager at the Museum of the Chinese in the Americas in Chinatown
Where you live: The Bronx
n the Year 4704...
What is the Museum of Chinese in the Americas doing to celebrate the Lunar New Year?
The Museum of Chinese in the Americas (MoCA) is planning to kick off the New Year with the 3rd Annual New York Lunar New Year Flower Market in Chinatown's Columbus Park. The Flower Market is a really huge celebration on Friday and Saturday, January 27 & 28, that we've organized with the United East Athletics Association (UEAA) and the Asian American Arts Alliance. We've taken a major cultural event from Asia, brought it to New York City, and infused it with arts & performances to make it a super family-friendly and interactive event. The only people who I imagine would have a less-than-stellar time would be those with severe allergies to flowers or children, but that's nothing that Claritin or Advil wouldn't take care of.
In addition to that event, the Museum will hold Lunar New Year walking tours during the weekends and also an intimate Peking Duck benefit dinner on February 9th, both in Chinatown. The latter is limited seating and is a fun way to support the Museum, make new friends and welcome in the New Year with a really delicious meal. More information on both those events can be found on our website at Moca-NYC.org There's a ton of other stuff happening in Chinatown for the New Year and people can find out more about those events at www.explorechinatown.com.
What is the significance of the Year of the Dog?
Despite the negative characteristics or connotations associated with being called a "dog", the Year of the Dog - 4704 - is ironically a really good year to get hitched. My aunt was explaining this to me: According to the lunar calendar, there were no first days of Spring in 4703 so marrying last year was a risky and unpropitious move. But this year has TWO first days of Spring so that's a really fortuitous and positive sign for the couple.
Just keep in mind: You know those lucky red envelopes filled with good luck money? Married couples no longer receive the red envelopes, but have to give them out to unmarried folks. (That might explain why I'm still single.)
In terms of attributes of those born in the Year of the Dog, they're loyal, honest and hardworkers, but can be stubborn, outspoken and critical when crossed.
How have Chinese Americans adapted to celebrating the New Year?
I find that the New Year seems to be the one Chinese holiday that every Chinese American celebrates in one way or another. I think it's largely because here in New York, there are events like the Lunar New Year Flower Market that introduces or preserves the traditions and cultural aspects of the holiday for the community. But also, because the New Year is such a family-oriented holiday, many of the customs are passed down within the home from generation to generation. Therefore, it's really up to the individual and his/her family to decide how to celebrate. My family tends to go all out with decorating, visiting the temple, handing out red envelopes, getting their haircuts, etc., but I know a few families who will have a meal together and that's about all the celebrating they'll do.
MOCA is expanding its space in next few years. Can you tell us about those plans?
MoCA is currently housed on the second floor of the former P.S. 23 school building at 70 Mulberry Street. We have about 2,500 sq.ft., which consists of two galleries -- one with our permanent exhibit and one with a rotating historical or artistic exhibit. It's been our home for over a decade and we've put out really great, lauded work here, but the space is just too small for us as an institution that continues to grow in visitation and vision.
In September '05, we signed a 15-year lease on the ground and basement levels of 147-151 Lafayette in Lower Manhattan. This new space is great because it bridges Chinatown and SoHo; gives us ground floor visibility; and when renovations are completed, will increase our total facilities to about five times what we have right now. We're also really psyched that Maya Lin, who is the talent behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in DC, will be designing the space for us. We plan to keep the 70 Mulberry Street site to store our collections and archives, while the new space will house our exhibits, classrooms, a lounge for special programs & receptions and a bookstore.
Until the expansion is completed in 2007, we'll be working on a capital campaign to raise funds for the project and will continue exhibiting at 70 Mulberry Street. People should definitely drop by for a visit before and after!
What is a part of the MOCA collection few people know about that you think is interesting?
I'm not sure people know that we actually only have a small portion of our collection on display in MoCA's permanent exhibit, "Where is Home? Chinese in the Americas." [See photograph below] We have a lot of great material -- photos, recordings of oral histories, textiles, letters, books, artifacts, etc. -- stored in our archives & collections room that, because of our limited space, we can't display or that we'll use for our rotating exhibits. Hopefully, the expansion will give us a chance to highlight more of these items.
For example, our Deputy Director of Programs, Cynthia Lee, is working on an exhibit that will debut in our new space. The exhibit will be about the social history of the iconic "Qi Pao" dress (think "In the Mood For Love"). I can't give away too much yet about the exhibit content, but she's been showing me an amazing group of over 70 qi paos in MoCA's collection donated by a woman named Pamela Chen, whose mother owned the dresses. The dresses are really, really stunning to say the least and we're really giddy about how they fit into the exhibit and that the public will get a chance to see them.
And on the city...
What's your favorite subway line?
I would have to say the 4 train -- I've lived in Kingsbridge Heights in the Bronx all my life so that's my train of choice. My only problem with it is that I'm very smell conscious and I don't really like the smell of the newer 4 trains. It's like what I imagine firemen's shoes would smell like -- wet feet mixed with burnt rubber.
Best/worst neighborhood gentrification trends:
Best trend in my opinion would probably be the expanding options for nightlife, especially restaurants and bar/lounges, in the Chinatown area.
Worst trend is personified by this ONE guy who immediately popped into my mind when I think of the words "worst" and "gentrification." I really shouldn't go into too much detail, but if you come by one day, I'll point him out.
Best street shortcut in Chinatown to avoid crowds on Canal:
Any street parallel to Canal is likely to be less crowded. If you must walk on Canal though, walk behind the delivery men. They're no joke. They have this "must drop this off NOW" attitude and always find a way through the coagulated crowds.
Best fast snack:
Dried mango slices. I'm not sure if they're really all that healthy, but they're really all that delicious.
And your favorite NYC bridge:
Throgs Neck Bridge! Nothing beats the views driving from Queens to the Bronx during the summer on a clear day as the sun is setting.
The Museum of the Chinese in the Americas is open Tuesday through Thursday (12:00 - 6:00), Friday (12:00 - 7:00PM), and Saturday & Sunday (12:00 - 6:00PM). And be sure to stop by Chinatown this weekend - it will certainly be exciting - or at some point during the two-week celebrations.
You can also learn more more about Chinese New Year from Wikipedia.