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.

Click HERE for Betty Yu’s CV (partial) - email for full CV

Recognitions / Awards / Residences:                        

  • Recipient of the 2019-2020 Pratt Institute Taconic Fellowship for Faculty to further develop “(Dis)Placed in Sunset Park”

  • Recipient of the 2019-2020 Laundromat Project’s Create Change Residency for Chinatown Art Brigade.

  • Recipient of the 2019 International Center of Photography Director’s Scholarship.

  • Recipient of the 2018 Mellon Engaged Scholarship Fund to support Chinatown Art Brigade’s Placekeeping – Here to Stay.

  • 2018 Grantee of Wave Farm’s Media Arts Assistance Fund for the distribution of “Three Tours”.

  • 2018 Summer Artist-in-Resident of SPACE on Ryder Farm in NYC.

  • 2018 Fourth Arts Block Artist-in-Residency for Chinatown Art Brigade

  • 2018 Residency with The Laundromat Project for Chinatown Art Brigade

  • Recipient of the 2017 Aronson Journalism for Social Justice Documentary Award and given an honorable mention in the New York Times for Three Tours.

  • 2017-2018 Fellow of the Intercultural Leadership Institute, a national fellowship for arts & culture leaders.

  • Recipient of the 2017 Culture Push Fellowship for Utopian Practice for Chinatown Art Brigade

  • 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.”


Click Below for Betty Yu’s published works (selects):

Visual Inquiry Journal

ArtLeaks Gazette

Betty Yu


Betty Yu is a multimedia artist, filmmaker, educator and activist born and raised in NYC to Chinese immigrant parents. Ms. Yu is a socially engaged multimedia artist integrating documentary film, new media platforms and community-infused approaches into her practice. Her community-based arts projects have fused together video, photography, interactive mapping, new media, installation, augmented reality, 3-D elements and live projections. Ms. Yu's 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 worked with housing activists and artists to co-create "People's Monument to Anti-Displacement Organizing" that was featured 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. In 2017, Ms. Yu has been awarded several artist residencies from institutions such as the International Studio & Curatorial Program, Skidmore College's Documentary Studies Collaborative and SPACE at Ryder Farm. In 2015, Betty co-founded Chinatown Art Brigade, a cultural collective using art to advance anti-gentrification organizing. Betty won the 2017 Aronson Journalism for Social Justice Award for her film "Three Tours" about U.S. veterans returning home from war in Iraq and their journey to overcome their PTSD. Ms. Yu is a 2017-18 fellow of the Intercultural Leadership Institute. Betty recently had her first solo exhibition, "(DIs)Placed in Sunset Park" at Open Source Gallery in September 2018 in New York City. This work was also included in 2019 BRIC’s Biennial where her project received an honorable mention in the New York Times.

Betty is an adjunct assistant professor teaching new media, film theory, art and video production at various colleges in New York City, including The New School, John Jay College, Pratt Institute Marymount Manhattan College and Hunter College. Ms. Yu's work has been exhibited, screened and featured at the International Center of Photography, Directors Guild of America, Brooklyn Museum, The Eastman Kodak Museum, BRIC, Visual Communications Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film & Video Festival and No Longer Empty's pop up gallery. 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, Wave Farm Media Arts and the Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media.

In addition Betty Yu sits on the boards of Third World Newsreel and Working Films, two progressive documentary film organizations. She also sits on the advisory board of More Art, an arts organization promoting public art in the community. Ms. Yu holds a BFA from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and a MFA in Integrated Media Arts from Hunter College.

Betty has close to 20 years of community, media justice and labor organizing experience. Ms. Yu's organizing recognitions include being the recipient of the Union Square Award for grassroots activism and a semi-finalist of the National Brick "Do Something" Award for community leadership in Chinatown. Betty was a 2015 Cultural Agent with the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC) a people powered network. She organized "City of Justice: New Year, New Futures" an anti-displacement interactive social justice, arts & activism event that featured 10 art, new media, culture and performance stations at Brooklyn Museum's First Saturday with thousands in attendance.

Her work has received media coverage in outlets including New York Times, HBO VICE News Tonight, i-D Vice Media, Art Forum, ARTNews, Sinovision, Hyperallergic, La Belle Revue Art Journal & Studio International.

Exhibitions/Screenings (Selected):

  • Selected to present at the 2019 International Conference on the Arts in Society in Lisbon, Portugal.

  • Exhibiting new work, In/Visible Labor in Chinatown at Reclaiming the Hall exhibition at Hall of Fame on the Bronx Community College in September 2019.

  • Exhibited (Dis)Placed in Sunset Park and gave artist talk at NYU’s 2019 Culture Mapping Conference.

  • Exhibited (Dis)Placed in Sunset Park at BRIC’s Biennial from February to April 2019 which received honorable mention in the New York Times.

  • Working Stories, a public art installation featuring six street signs that honor workers and the labor history of those who worked around the Highline neighborhood will be part of the opening of The Spur, the last section of the High Line that extends east along 30th St. and terminates above 10th Ave in April 2019.

  • Chinatown Not for Sale with Chinatown Art Brigade will be exhibited at Wing Luke Museum in Seattle, Washington in May 2019.

  • Exhibited (Dis)Placed in Sunset Park, 4-week solo show in September 2018 at Open Source Gallery in Brooklyn, NYC.

  • Three Tours, was selected to be screened at ArtsQuest, as part of a documentary film series in partnership with Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA on January 28th, 2018.

  • Special “Veterans Day: Reframed” screening and panel discussion was organized for Three Tours  in NYC on November 14th, 2018. It was also written about in the New York Times.

  • Three Tours, 50-min documentary about U.S. veterans returning from Iraq screening at The Guild in Albuquerque and Chicago in March and August, 2017

  • Exhibited (Dis)Placed in Sunset Park: The Future of Sunset Park: Through the Voices of Immigrant Stories in June 2017 at the Case Gallery in Saratoga, New York.

  • Exhibited The Future of Sunset Park: Through the Voices of Immigrant Stories at ISCP Open Studio Show April 21-22nd in NY.

  • 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.