Volume 22, Number 05 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | June 19 - 25, 2009
Downtown Express photo by Jared T. Miller
A worker opens a package to the Museum of Chinese in America’s large new center at 215 Centre St. The $15 million space will open in part next Friday and the museum expects the entire project to be done in August.
Chinese museum’s new centerto open next week
By Julie Shapiro
Four years ago, Charles Lai huddled over scraps of paper with architect Maya Lin, planning the Museum of Chinese in America’s expansion.
Hundreds of details and decisions later, the museum’s new Centre St. space will open for the first time next Friday morning, June 26.
“We are all extremely excited,” said Lai, the museum’s executive director. “There’s a vision, an image of what it could look like, and then on a daily basis over the last several years, bit by bit it’s coming to reality.”
The 14,000-square-foot space on Centre St. a block north of Canal St. is six times bigger than the museum’s current Mulberry St. location. Lin’s design, featuring bronze, earthy tones and natural materials, includes galleries, a courtyard, interactive kiosks and a 100-steat auditorium. The building is aiming for a LEED Silver rating.
Next Friday will mark the “soft opening” of the museum’s new space, where construction is about 95 percent complete. The permanent collection won’t be done until early August, and MoCA will hold a larger grand opening Sept. 22. But Lai decided to open the museum as early as possible so the community can begin using it this summer.
On July 1, the Chinatown Film Project will premiere at the museum, featuring 10 short films that present different visions of the neighborhood. Later in the month, MoCA will host more screenings as part of the Asian American International Film Festival.
An event Lai is particularly excited about is the first Asian American ComiCon on July 11. The daylong conference at MoCA will explore the role of Asians in both historical and contemporary cartoons and graphic novels. Speakers will include artist Bernard Chang, who recently illustrated Wonder Woman, and Larry Hama, a writer and editor for Marvel Comics.
MoCA will kick off the summer programming with free admission June 26-28, and throughout the summer Target is sponsoring free admission on Thursdays. The rest of the time, adult tickets will be $7 and seniors and students will be $4.
MoCA, like many nonprofits, has faced financial problems as the economy worsened over the past year. Lai dismissed two workers and left several positions unfilled since last fall, and remaining staff took a 5 percent pay cut this spring. Lai said the staff is working hard to finish raising the $15 million necessary to construct and operate the expanded space.
While the big picture of the finances is never far from Lai’s mind, this week he was consumed with getting the space ready for the opening.
The museum’s main floor consists of galleries that center around an interior courtyard Lin left largely untouched. As visitors look through windows onto the courtyard, they will also see short films about Chinese Americans projected onto the glass.
In the museum’s entrance, Lin designed a Journey Wall composed of hundreds of bronze tiles. Each will have a donor’s name and his or her country of origin and current hometown, to show personal journeys.
Lin will speak about the museum’s design at the 10 a.m. opening next Friday.
Starting June 26, MoCA will be open at 215 Centre St. Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays and Fridays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursdays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit mocanyc.org or call 212-619-4785.