A digital archive of Asian/Asian American contemporary art history

Photograph of group portrait of the Basement Workshop, [1972]

Basement Workshop at 22 Catherine Street, New York City, 1972.
Photographer: Bob Hsiang
Prints of original with permission of the photographer

1970 Basement Workshop founded
1974 Asian American Dance Theatre founded; Nixon resigns due to Watergate
1988 Thomas Krens, joins Guggenheim
1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre
1990 Collapse of the Soviet Union
1995 Expansion Arts eliminated
2002 President Bush limits the Freedom on Information Act


"In 1969, I graduated from college and following the footsteps of my elder brother Danny and came to New York. He put me to work right away, making me part of the Chinatown Study Group, working on the Chinatown Report 1969, the first ever research project of New York Chinatown. Part of its Preface noted,

'…It is also well recognized that the Chinatown Study Group that research is only one of the two necessary tools with which the problems of racial and cultural minority groups must be attacked. The other is through the initiation of action programs. The two aspects are compatible. Research without subsequent implementation is meaningless, action without basis is frustration. Therefore, in dedicating the findings of our research project to the residents and concerned community organizations of New York Chinatown, we hope that at least a part of the incentive for developing solutions through action programs will come from within the community itself.'

I lived on the upper west side in those days near Columbia University where I was attending graduate school, and almost every other day would head down to Chinatown taking the #1 train transferring at Times Square to the N train, and getting off at the Canal Street Station. The token to take the subway ride in those days, I think was 20 cents.

One day, Danny called and said to come to Chinatown, he wanted to show me something. He gave me an address where I would find him. I arrived in Chinatown, and following his instructions, landed at 54 Elizabeth Street. Walking down a flight of metal stairs, I found myself looking into a basement room about 16’ x 16’, with a small window in one corner. Danny was beaming, standing in the middle of the empty room, and exclaimed happily, “Well, what do you think?” Then he went on to say that he had just rented this basement, and this will be the place from which we can operate our activities and programs for Chinatown. On that day, Basement Workshop came into existence. It took us another six months or so before we became legal. There were five of us on the legal paper, and about a dozen of us who chipped in to pay the rent. In the spring of 1970, Basement Workshop Inc became official, and everything after that became history."
-- Eleanor Yung, 2009

PS. Until his departure for Hong Kong around 1976-77, Danny was a seminal presence for Basement in most if not all of its activities.
–- Robert Lee, Asian American Arts Centre

2 pages
7.5x10.25 inches (h x w x d)
Basement Workshop portrait, photograph, front
Basement Workshop portrait, photograph, back
Source: Photograph
Basement Workshop portrait, photograph, front Basement Workshop portrait, photograph, back