Ginger Arts Center offers Chinatown’s youth a place to learn, connect and be themselves

The youth-led arts center, based in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, offers young people a safe space to learn about the arts and their cultures.

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Ginger Arts Center in Chinatown

The Ginger Arts Center in Chinatown provides youth-led programming and workshops, as well as access to equipment and workspaces for creativity. (Courtesy of Noel Chacko)

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Chinatown’s Ginger Arts Center aims to provide the youth in the neighborhood with a safe space to express creativity and connect with others while learning about their culture.

A grand opening event on Sunday welcomed dozens of people to the new space that offers youth-led programming and workshops, as well as access to equipment and workspaces for creativity.

The arts center is being led by members of Students for the Preservation of Chinatown (SPOC) and Students Against Sixers Arena (SASA) who formed in opposition to the proposed 76ers arena on Market Street.

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Co-founder Kenny Chiu is a lifelong resident of Chinatown after his parents immigrated to the neighborhood in the early 2000s. He said Chinatown provided a place where they could live and thrive without English and where they found community.

Wall of Polaroids
Staff, guests, and youth who have ventured through the Ginger Arts Center are immortalized on a wall of Polaroids near the entrance. (Cory Sharber/WHYY News)

“That place has been a really safe place for me to live and grow up and thrive,” Chiu said. “Chinatown has not only been the starting place for me and my parents, but I feel like many people have the same story of finding a home here.”

Chiu said one of the reasons Ginger Arts Center came to be was from the posters created by the Save Chinatown Coalition, which he said served as a way to “show people that we’re a community.”

“I like to say often that the 76ers owners have spent millions of dollars on lobbying and advertisements and our way of doing advertisements is through art and that’s how we get our message out,” Chiu said.

Will Chan found community within the Chinatown movement after moving to Philadelphia from England two years ago to attend UPenn. He said the art center’s mission is “parallel to how that movement has grown,” but also that the space can help the youth learn from the elders within the neighborhood.

Will Chan at Ginger Arts Center
Will Chan (far left) welcomed dozens to the Ginger Arts Center on June 30, 2024 for its grand opening. (Courtesy of Noel Chacko)

“The art center was really founded to show that this gap needs to be bridged,” Chan said. “We need a space for youth to learn from their elders, not just about their cultural roots going back to their time in Asia, but also their experiences as an Asian-American.”

“It’s a space to learn from mistakes that you might have made, but it’s also a place where you can completely be yourself,” Chan said. “You can bring your authentic self here. You can express yourself through art and through various other means in a way that has previously been inaccessible.”

Books written by Asian-American authors can be checked out from the library at the facility.

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The center is located at 447 N 12th Street and is open Tuesday through Friday from 3-7:30 p.m., and Saturday through Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

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