Betty Yu

Bio

Betty Yu is a Chinese-American multi-media artist, filmmaker educator and community activist raised in Sunset Park, Brooklyn to Chinese immigrant parents. She is a co-founder of the Chinatown Art Brigade, a cultural collective telling stories of Chinatown tenants fighting gentrification through public projections and art. Her documentary “Resilience” about her garment worker mother fighting sweatshop conditions, screened at national and international film festivals including the Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival.  Yu’s multi-media installation, “The Garment Worker” was featured at Tribeca Film Institute’s Interactive. She co-created "Monument to Anti-Displacement Organizing" in the Agitprop! show at Brooklyn Museum. Betty was a 2012 Public Artist-in-Resident and received the 2016 SOAPBOX Artist Award from Laundromat Project. Betty is a 2016 A Blade of Grass Fellow for Socially Engaged Art for her project with Chinatown Art Brigade. Ms. Yu has received numerous grants for our work including support from Art Matters Foundation, Brooklyn Arts Council, and the Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media. She is a 2017 artist-in-resident at the International Studio and Curatorial Program in New York City. Betty is also an adjunct professor at various colleges teaching new media, art and video production. Betty recently won the 2017 Aronson Journalism for Social Justice Documentary Award for her film, "Three Tours". Betty is also a 2017-2018 Fellow of the Intercultural Leadership Institute.

Ms. Yu has been awarded Artist-in-Residencies with the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts and Open Source Gallery'. Betty was named the 2015 Cultural Agent with the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC) a people-powered arts network. Through her work with USDAC, Betty’s work has fused elements of public art intervention, storytelling, theater, and artist citizenry.  In 2015, she organized “City of Justice: New Year, New Futures” an anti-displacement interactive social justice, arts & activism event that featured 10 art, culture and performance stations at Brooklyn Museum First Saturday.  

Her documentary “Resilience” about her garment worker mother fighting against sweatshop conditions, screened at national and international film festivals  Betty’s short documentary “Against the Grain” that she co-directed with Seyi Adebanjo about a gender non-conforming Nigerian immigrant artist screened at many film festivals including the 2014 San Francisco Transgender Film Festival.Ms. Yu’s work has been exhibited and featured at the International Center of Photography, Directors Guild of America, Eastman Kodak Museum, Museum of Modern Art and Brooklyn Museum. Recently, “Discovering My Grandfather Through Mao”, a short film documenting her grandfather’s radical history as a labor organizer was selected for the 2015 Culture UnPlugged Film Festival.  Ms. Yu is currently on the Board of Directors of Deep Dish TV, Working Films and Third World Newsreel, progressive social justice media/arts organizations.

Ms. Yu holds a BFA from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and a MFA in Integrated Media Arts from Hunter College..

Artist Statement

My documentary and multi-media work is shaped and influenced by my direct experience as a daughter raised by garment worker parents. Upon arrival from Hong Kong over forty years ago, my parents toiled under sweatshop conditions. This upbringing undoubtedly formed who I am as an artist today.  In my artwork, I approach social issues through my own personal story, family narrative and community’s history. My body of work has explored issues ranging from the labor rights, immigrant justice, gender equity and militarism.  The subject of my projects usually documents the courage and resilience of communities who have boldly come forward to advocate for social change.

The arts is a powerful artistic medium to tell stories, put a human face on an issue, move people to care, and inspire people to take action. While my art work is meant to be educational and thought provoking, my bigger intention is to provoke people to think about themselves as agents of change. Many of my films document the courage and resilience of traditionally marginalized communities who boldly stood up, organized and fought for their rights.  For instance I produced a series of videos that documented the working conditions of Chinese garment workers who are subjected to subminimum wages, long hours, and workplace injuries and lack of time with their families.  It’s important that my work depict the collective power that people posses to challenge corporate greed, unscrupulous employers and other injustices. 

Aside from film and video, my social change message has been expressed through various mediums that include web-based projects, photography, and public art installation.  Regardless of the medium I am working with, the theme and message is consistent.  Through my direct involvement in community activism, I have access to people’s stories and can provide a platform for their voices to be heard.  It’s important to preserve the integrity and respect people’s experiences and stories therefore it’s vital that my subjects feel a part of the process.  I am continuously looking for innovate ways to incorporate different methods of storytelling and visual mediums into my work.

Recognitions                         

  • Won the 2017 Aronson Journalism for Social Justice Documentary Award for her film, "Three Tours".
  • Selected as a 2017-2018 Fellow of the Intercultural Leadership Institute.
  • 2016 SOAPBOX Award in Community Arts.
  • Selected as a 2017 artist-in-resident at the International Studio and Curatorial Program in New York City.
  • Recipient of the 2016  Blade of Grass Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art. for Chinatown Art Brigade's "Here to Stay" Project
  • Recipient of a 2016 Brooklyn Arts Council Grant for “Celebrating Our Ancestors at Sunset”, an interdisciplinary arts project
  • Selected as a 2015 "Cultural Agent" for the U.S. Department of Arts & Culture (USDAC), a national non-profit people powered arts network. 
  • "The Garment Worker" was one of 20 projects exhibited during the 2014 Tribeca Institute Interactive as a part of the Film Festival in NYC.                                    
  • Awarded a seed grant from 2013 Art Matters for “Three Tours”, an interactive media project that highlights the stories of Iraqi civilians and Iraqi war veterans whose lives have been profoundly transformed by their direct experience with war-related trauma.
  • Selected as an Artist-in-Residency for the 2012 Laundromat Project’s Create Change program and grant to exhibit show
  • Judge for the Best Shorts of the 2010 International Asian American Film Festival
  • Recipient of $25,000 Paul Robeson Fund for a documentary film project about garment workers in 2006.
  • Recipient of the 1999 Union Square Award for grassroots activism.    
  • Recognized as a young and dedicated community organizer in the New York Daily’s News Millennium Edition as one of the “21 New Yorkers to Watch in the 21st Century.”

Exhibitions/Screenings (Selected)

  • Co-Creator, A People’s Monument to Anti-Displacement Organizing (2016) an interactive display and video highlighting gentrification in Brooklyn is part of the 3rd Wave of the AgitProp! Show at the Brooklyn Museum.
  • Curated City of Justice: New Year, New Futures where thousands of visitors engaged in an interactive social justice, arts & activism event that featured 10 art, culture and performance stations at Brooklyn Museum for their Target Free First Saturday on January 2nd, 2016.
  • Letter from Wei Xui Qing, a short memory collage based on my vivid memories and a letter from a 16-year old Chinese garment worker, was an official selection for the 2015 CUNY Asian American Film Festival.
  • WORKShifts: Race, Labor and Defining Ourselves, an interactive installation that merges my family’s immigrant work experiences and the painful history of economic racism of the Chinese community in the U.S. , was part of No Longer Empty’s Through the Parlor 5-week Exhibit in NYC’s Chinatown.
  • Against the Grain, a short documentary about a Nigerian immigrant, cultural organizer artist who is undergoing testosterone therapy treatment screened at the 2011 LA Transgender Film Festival, the 2012 Philadelphia Transhealth Conference, Multi-Campus National Campus Tour, and the 2013 Sydney Transgender International Film Festival.
  • Presented Hood Hub, an interactive model for radical media at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in February 2012.
  • The Garment Worker, an interactive installation was exhibited as part of the 2012 Laundromat Project Artist-in-Residency Program and at the Black Box Gallery at Hunter College.
  • Rising From Our Hardship, a 30-minute documentary about workers injured on the job screened at May Day Film Festival and the Native American Indian Community House in 2005.
  • Resilience, a short film on sweatshop conditions had its US debut at the 2000 Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival in New York and its’ International debut at the 2001 Mayworks Festival in Toronto, Canada. Resilience was also screened at the Directors Guild of America for the 2002 Visual Communications Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film & Video Festival. 
  • Award winning photograph was on display and portfolio was exhibited in a running video component at the International Center of Photography,
  • Photography book addressing racism was displayed in the George Eastman Kodak Museum.