On Sunday, February 18, the family store-turned-community engagement initiative known as the W.O.W. Project on 26 Mott Street will be hosting China Residencies' "WOW Dumpling Art Party" in the heart of New York City's Chinatown. As the third of its kind, the fundraiser promises to come replete with zines for sale by the YJC (Yellow Jackets Collective), a projector screening footage produced by BUFU (By Us, For Us), and, as advertised, an assortment of handmade dumplings. The event is produced by a non-profit that connects an international network of artists and residencies––a mission that, as co-founder Kira Simon-Kennedy told me, stems from a bittersweet history.
In the spring of 2009, Simon-Kennedy, then living in Beijing, traded her study abroad courses for a full-time internship at the city's Red Gate Gallery. There she met Crystal Ruth Bell, a fellow American in charge of the gallery's residency program. "Even then she was interested in the idea of building an international residency network," Simon-Kennedy recalled. "She realized there was this huge information gap, and she was meeting all of these people who were running creative spaces and were looking for interactive exchange."
The pair kept in touch. In 2012, Bell left her post in Beijing for Marquette, Nebraska, where she was invited by Art Farm to develop her idea as a resident. Later that year, Bell was diagnosed with melanoma, forcing her to return to her home state of Florida for treatment. Undeterred, she continued to work, using the hospital's WiFi to host online webinars and, with Simon-Kennedy, registering China Residencies in 2013, culminating the database she had been envisioning.
Bell passed away the following year.
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