2020. Um… how does anyone go about summarizing 2020?

This year that felt like a century started out fairly normally. We came back from our first long winter break to recover from a bout of burnout (after our biggest and busiest year yet) with a new mandate to rethink everything and take it a little bit slower. Well, we got all that and so much more, in this dreaded calendar year! Challenges followed by disasters upended by ongoing catastrophes pushed us to expand our capacities in ways we'd barely ever dreamed.

Yet, somehow, amazingly, with the continued support of amazing people like you, we made it work. We're still here, working to share resources across borders, caring for artists and for each other, and that's no small feat.

Even without travel, we spent much more than expected this year because we redirected as many funds as we could towards emergency grants for everyone who needed extra support in this difficult year. So we're fundraising to cover the gap, and we’re already 25% of the way there!

If your income hasn’t been affected by the pandemic, can help us raise the remaining $12,000 to close out our 7th year before the end of the year? 


We’re phenomenally proud of what we managed to accomplished this year -- despite, in light of, and maybe because of all these overlapping crises. Thanks to each and every one of you who continue to help us moving forward. 

Here’s a short overview of China Residencies’ projects this past year:

================= HELPING ARTISTS =================

In January, Lian Wei Xiang retraced her roots to merge fantasies and realities of transracial transnational adoption. On a voyage to absorb home owed to her by beloved ghosts, Lian wandered around her birth town, Nanning, for the first time, then whispered secrets and musings to the mountains and dilapidated buildings on the slow train home.


Above: Lian at the start of her #SlowTrainResidency, Below: an excerpt of her poem at the end of her journey.

it's bizzarre to mei was a pregnancy
housed in a body
a baby crying
cradled in arms

i can only place blank faces
on the altar of my ancestorsi am the start of this line now

On January 7th, the morning after I finished reading Ling Ma’s novel Severance, I saw the news that 59 people in Wuhan now had been infected by a “mysterious viral pneumonia.” Years ago, when China Residencies was just getting started, we had written down emergency plans for 5 disaster scenarios, one of which was a SARS-like epidemic. We knew the first step would be to cancel all travel and recommend all the residencies in the network do the same. We indefinitely postponed projects and plans in Yunnan, Jiangxi, and Guangdong, and cautiously tracked the news, and started writing our guide to staying safe and calm.

Evergreen PSA: wash your hands, don't be racist! 

"Massive thanks to all the doctors, nurses, volunteers, delivery folks, journalists, and everyone helping out and sharing the news during these difficult times! We're especially heartbroken about the death of Dr. Li Wenliang 李文亮 and everyone else who tried to warn everyone about the outbreak early on, only to be reprimanded. Our thoughts are with all of the loved ones of the deceased and ill 💜 We're hoping for rapid recoveries and greater transparency, and support throughout this isolation which is already taking a toll on folks."

This year has been a year of artist collectives rapidly responding and coming through for community! On February 2nd as China locked down due to COVID-19, our fiscally sponsored fellows Shanghai Community Radio pioneered the art of decentralized broadcasting / bedroom raves / 34 hour online party through their 不要出门 (Don't Go Out) series. SHCR continued their multimedia streams and archiving platform of underground music, art and culture within Shanghai and beyond, through billingual interviews Mandarin and English, spinning live performances, and hosting radio residents like CinemQ.

Still from SHCR Wuhan broadcast

In February, Yellow Jackets Collective hosted an intimate, banquet-style dinner and bigger after party at metaDEN, a POC only healing/community space in Brooklyn to welcome in the year of the Metal Rat 🐀. A year of alchemy, a year for transformation. 

“In 2019 we called in abundance and we got it all, good and bad. Hardship and growth. This year, we want to cocoon ourselves, undergo metamorphosis and materialize the dreams and futures that have always been inside us 🦋⁣”

We were on the fence about our own celebration. With no confirmed cases yet in NYC, we decided to go ahead and celebrate a Cloud Dumpling Party to share the word about what was happening in Wuhan, party, and of course eat lots of dumplings. We couldn’t have done it without our amazing host committee of phenomenal artists and guest DJ Sierra Lim.

We had the time to add in one last zine to the library side of our Meme Tactics exhibition to share updates of how Pepe the Frog morphed into a beacon of hope in Hong Kong.

 Fei Liu reflects on the many lives of Pepe the Frog in the US, mainland China and now Hong Kong, with the addition of an essay by Stephanie Yee-Kay Chan.

By then, the lockdowns expanded -- it wasn’t just China, it was Iran, Italy, and then pretty much everywhere on Earth, at some point. The pandemic exposed and exacerbated all of our societies deepest flaws, revealing governments and communities’ varying abilities and willingness to protect everyone from this deadly and highly contagious disease. 

So we told everyone who would listen: art can wait. Right now, our greatest collective work is caring for each other. We worked with filmmaker Jessica Kingdon to source wholesale KN95 masks from vendors in Yiwu over WeChat for NYC healthcare and hospital workers, from vendors she met working on her short documentary Commodity City.

BUFU leapt into online action to share love, care, solidarity, and support everyone affected by the coronavirus pandemic with CLOUD 9 ~ "Collective Love On Ur Desktop" ~ We learned to navigate the ins-and-outs of new uncertainties that disproportionately affected our communities: unemployment and inflexible employers, rent strikes, access to safe housing and healthcare, and the sudden cancellation of all creative in-person events. But beyond sharing tools for sheer survival, BUFU gathered amazing artists to share wisdom, poetry, and celebrations. There were 24h dance parties and countless new ways to thrive and be together amidst sudden isolation. 

And while we’re grateful for giant foundations that opened up their deep pockets a tiny bit faster, we truly found support from each other, and from you. Two thirds of all the funds raised to support the artists and organizers in CLOUD 9 came from over 400 individuals. This was mutual aid in action, everyone helping each other and pitching in to the committees where their skills were most needed. 

keep donating to BUFU directly @BYUSFORUS on Venmo & CashApp and PayPal!

With severely limited safe ways of getting to or from mainland China, we transformed our research trips into virtual visits and Cloud Conversations. Xiaoyao interviewed artists all over the country over WeChat to check in and see how they were coping during lockdowns, and what this all meant for the future of artist-run spaces. Many of our favorite residencies focused on supporting artists locally, others went into hiatus, and others still embarked on opening new projects.

We welcomed three brilliant interns, Mandy, Quinn & Shahong working remotely from Boston, Portland & the Adirondacks, and welcomed six dedicated new board members: Eddie Chu, Jason Li, Pamela Liou, Minsoo Thigpen, Ian Yang, and we're so thankful for all of their insights.

We protested and mourned and raged and organized and kept each other safe all summer in the many manifestations of the Movement for Black Lives, and continue to urge every single organization, brand, and institution that made a statement to actually follow through with long-term commitments to ending white supremacy in all its forms.

translations by Michelle Lin

We kept sharing our Meme Tactics exhibition with Allied Media and Our Networks, moving our exhibition into an interactive digital hub to pass on ways artists find innovative ways to make underheard messages catch on. 

Amy Suo Wu & Elyla Sinverguenza's digitized works in Meme Tactics online

And we found ways to bring you all to our favorite places in China, virtually, with our Creative City Guides! We worked with filmmakers, musicians, artists, curators, and chefs from Wuhan, Lijiang, Kunming, Chengdu, Xiamen, Chongqing, Nanjing, Jingdezhen, and Guangzhou to share what makes these places so special, through their eyes, until we can travel again.

And finally, for the 7th open call in Crystal’s honor, we’re going remote -- our Mediate Open Call launched with our biggest grant yet: the chosen resident will get USD $10,000 to support their media arts project that was disrupted or affected by the pandemic.


We miss Crystal, so much. In a year marked by so much unexpected grief, we’re mourning all those we’ve lost, and all the possibilities cut short. We hope everyone finds meaningful ways to honor and continue the memories, hopes, and aspiration of our departed. 

We also owe infinite thanks to:

Our fantastic board members Zara Arshad, Jay Brown, Eddie Chu, Samantha Culp, Miles Greenberg, Melissa Karmen Lee, Jason Li, Pamela Liou, Rachel Marsden, An Xiao Mina, Adam Short, Minsoo Thigpen, Christina Xu, and Ian Yang; our brilliant team: Josue Chavez, Xiaoyao Xu, Mikail Wright,  Amanda Zhang, Shahong Lee, Mandy You, Quinn Chen web developer Francis Tseng; advising accountant Sebastien Sanz de Santamaria.

Ultimately, none of this would exist without all the hundreds of generous individuals like you who donated to help us keep going, and most of all, without all the creative people who find this website useful and the wonderful residencies who host and nurture creativity by helping to bring individuals' ideas into existence, in increasingly difficult situations.

================== WHAT’S NEXT ? ==================

In 2021, we’ll still be online ;)

We're looking forward to reading all your proposals the Crystal Ruth Bell residency. Stay tuned for very special virtual dumpling parties in February! As always, we will continue to:

💸 * FUND * excellent under-represented creative people and projects
💞 * MENTOR * and nurture the next generation of organizers and administrators
💖 * CARE * continuously for our community of alumni through emergency grants
✏️ * EDUCATE * by creating and sharing guides, exhibitions & events & art projects to amplify artists’ role in changing society in China & beyond
🤓 * ADVISE * residency programs to foster sustainable creative exchange
🗺️ * RESEARCH * and curate our free online directory of opportunities and list of vetted partners in mainland China & Hong Kong for creative people from all over the world

We've launched our first individual giving campaign!

📝 For $3/month, we'll match you with a (digital or analog) pen pal 📝

🎶 For $9/month, we'll share a list of our favorite films, books, music 🎶

🍜 For $18/month, we'll send a recipe shared with one of our elders' blessing 👵🏼

Thank you for sticking by our side as we build a more open, collaborative, and sustainable creative world together. We hope you join us in giving a one time or recurring donation this year.

in gratitude & solidarity,

Kira Simon-Kennedy

Co-Founder & Executive Director

China Residencies