22 Catherine Street


When the Basement Workshop’s activities outgrew the tiny basement on Elizabeth Street, the organization’s leaders looked into leasing a roomier space in Chinatown.

On 22 Catherine Street, the Basement Workshop made their home on the third floor of a building that also housed Pearl River Mart and the Chinatown Health Clinic.

By this time, members continued to advocate for community needs, but expanded their efforts into semi-autonomous arms of the organization.

The Amerasia Creative Arts program developed as “an experimental vehicle” to define and explore Asian American identity. Through foundation and government grants, the program began to expand arts opportunities like silkscreening workshops for the Chinatown community and young Asian American artists.


Amerasia Creative Arts description. 1972. Danny Yung Papers. Courtesy of Bob Lee and Eleanor Yung.

Along with arts programming, members of Basement used their new space for hosting larger meetings, children’s programs, and summer internships through the city’s Neighborhood Youth Corps. 

It was during this time that Basement required more finances in order to support their expanding visions. Then director of Basement, Danny Yung, asked member, Fay Chiang, to write a proposal for the New York State Council on the Arts. Seven Loaves, a coalition of arts organizations on the Lower East Side, supported Basement, providing training to Fay and others about how to seek out support for community arts. 

Aside from focusing on the arts, Basement continued its dedication to community needs through supporting protest and educational efforts.

In the fall of 1973, Luis Fuentes, a community-elected superintendent for school district 1 in the Lower East Side was suspended from his position by the community school board which had illegally elected six new members to the nine person board. Calls for protest were swift. Fuentes was a supporter of bilingual and remedial education for students. Through the boycott, Fuentes was reinstated temporarily. Calls were made for Asian Americans to continue supporting the boycott in order to reinstate Fuentes permanently and ensure community control of educational programs. Basement members, KW Chin, Yee Ling Poon, Susan Yung, and Fay Chiang helped coordinate the call for further engagement in the protests.  


Information on the District One boycott and calls for Asian students needed for participation. October 1973. Museum of Chinese in America, Basement Workshop Collection.
District One Boycott Flyer. 1973. Credit: William KW Chin. Museum of Chinese in America, Basement Workshop Collection.

Additional calls for protest were made by the Chinatown community throughout Basement’s time at Catherine Street. In 1975, after the brutal police beating of Peter Yew in Chinatown outside of the local police precinct, Basement members designed, screen printed, and distributed 2,000 posters for community members to use during demonstrations.

Travel to other locations of the Basement Workshop: