Myseum Intersections 2021: ChinaTOwn (Symposium)

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Talk exploring how chinatowns have come to be defined & develop what a heritage future might look for chinatowns in Toronto & elsewhere.

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ChinaTOwn: Future Heritage(s) of Toronto's Chinatowns Symposium

What could the heritage future of chinatown look like? The ChinaTOwn digital symposium, presented by Prof. Linda Zhang of Ryerson School of Interior Design at FCAD, will begin the discussion by looking at the history and origins of architectural motifs that we now recognize in chinatowns today.

From the first Chinatown in San Francisco, to the world’s fairs that fascinated visitors with false portrayals of Chinese culture, the symposium will explore exactly what defines the “Chinatown-ness” that we know today, and how we arrived at that definition.

The symposium will also introduce some of the realities and challenges faced by Toronto’s existing chinatowns today, as businesses are forced to move out and new policies affect the livelihood of these communities. These findings will be presented as part of our speakers’ bodies of work, art and activism.

Throughout the symposium the project will connect back to the exhibit installations to help us respond and develop what a heritage future might look like for chinatowns in Toronto.

Symposium Speakers

Biko Mandela Gray (moderator) is an assistant professor of religion at Syracuse University. His research areas include continental philosophy, history of African American religions, and affect theory. He is currently working on a book that explores the connection between race, matter and embodiment, religion, and subjectivity through the lens of the blacklivesmatter movement.

Linda Zhang (Organizer) is a licensed architect, artist and educator. She is an assistant professor at Ryerson SID and a principal at Studio Pararaum. She is a 2020 Artist in Residence at the European Ceramic Workcentre (EKWC) and was a recipient of the 2019 Multicultural Fellow at NCECA, the 2017-2018 Boghosian Fellow at Syracuse University SOA as well as a 2017 Fellow at the Berlin Center for Art and Urbanistics. Her research areas include memory, cultural heritage, and identity as they indexically embodied through matter, material processes and reproduction technologies.

Erica Allen-Kim (Speaker) is an architectural historian who studies built landscapes of migration. Her forthcoming book, Building Saigon: Refugee urbanism in American cities and suburbs, is the first in-depth examination of the visual and material culture of Vietnamese resettlement. Her SSHRC funded research, in partnership with the Chinatown West BIA, seeks to understand the legacy of racialized architectural and planning strategies for Chinatown residents, institutions, and businesses facing unprecedented development pressures in Toronto.

Howard Tam, MSc.,BASc. (Speaker) is a Strategic Designer and Urban Planner. He is the founder of ThinkFresh Group, a City Building consultancy based in Toronto responsible for such projects as the Dragon Centre Stories Commemoration Project and the upcoming Honest Ed’s Alley Micro-Retail Market. Howard has worked with government and private sector clients in Canada to facilitate and design strategies that create urban spaces with amazing human experiences. He has lectured about city building and design at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Shellie Zhang (b. 1991, Beijing, China) (Speaker) is a multidisciplinary artist based in Tkaronto/Toronto, Canada. She is interested in exploring how integration, diversity and assimilation is implemented and negotiated, how this relates to lived experiences, how culture is learned, relearned and sustained, and how things are remembered and preserved. Upcoming projects include solo exhibitions at Artspace (Peterbrough), Patel Gallery (Toronto) and AKA Artist-Run (Saskatoon).

Friends of Chinatown Toronto (FOCT) (Speaker) is a grassroots organization comprised of artists, architects, writers, journalists, business owners, residents and community activists fighting for community-controlled affordable housing, economic justice, and racial justice in Toronto’s downtown Chinatown. Our advocacy centres the needs and voices of working class, senior, and immigrant communities who rely on Toronto’s downtown Chinatown for cultural and economic resources that are unique to the neighbourhood. Our mission is to build community power and resist displacement through political education, intergenerational collaboration, coalition-building, and community-based art. We aim to represent, build, preserve and honour the memory and future of Chinatown and its community members as an integral piece of Toronto’s legacy.

About ChinaTOwn: Future Heritage(s) of Toronto's Chinatowns Exhibit

Who holds the right to decide what gets remembered? Conversely, the right to forget? ChinaTOwn tells the forgotten stories, willful omissions, and accumulation of silences that exist beyond Toronto’s official heritage definition of its Chinatown neighbourhoods. The project aims to put personal stories and individual memory in conversation with state-sanctioned narratives. Each of the projects featured in ChinaTOwn explores the idea that all that is written is not necessarily all that is, and what is remembered extends far beyond what is recorded. Through a conceptual exhibition, participatory workshops, a symposium and roundtable discussion, we seek to uncover untold stories and build a collective, intersectional vision for the future heritage(s) of Toronto’s Chinatowns.

Presented by Linda Zhang, Assistant Professor at Ryerson's School of Interior Design (RSID) at FCAD, along with a class of fourth-year RSID students, this immersive and interactive project seeks to identify Chinatown's future heritage(s) through the affects produced by interior architecture, lived experience, collective storytelling, atmosphere, and memory.

Each of the projects featured in ChinaTOwn explores what marginalized communities have known for some time—namely, that all that is written is not necessarily all that is, and what is remembered extends far beyond what is recorded.

Special thanks to community donors: Linda Chu and John Donald

Event Accessibility

  • Registration accessibility: Should you need any help registering/accessing registration through Eventbrite please contact us at
  • Live Captioning will be provided.
  • For accommodations such as ASL interpretation, please contact Festival & Programming Coordinator, Sarah Tumaliuan by email by May17th and we will do our best to meet all requests.
  • If you have any additional requirements or accommodations, please let us know by emailing and we will do our best to accommodate.

About Myseum Intersections

Myseum Intersections is an annual city-wide arts and culture festival that explores Toronto through intersectional perspectives. This year’s festival taking place April - June, 2021 adopts a new hybrid model, balancing socially distanced physical exhibits with virtual exhibits, events, and experiences.

Learn more at:

About Myseum of Toronto

Myseum is your Toronto museum. Our engaging programs and experiences showcase the history, spaces, culture(s), architecture, and people that represent Toronto’s unique place in the world.

Please Note

  • We will email you the Zoom link for this event 24-48 hours in advance of the event.
  • In case of changes or cancellation we will do our best to notify you in advance via email.
  • This event will be recorded.

		Myseum Intersections 2021: ChinaTOwn (Symposium) image

		Myseum Intersections 2021: ChinaTOwn (Symposium) image
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