Public Humanities Program: 2021-2024: Endurance Streets (耐力街道): Resilience and Response in Boston’s Chinese Community

Wave of Memory mural in Chinatown on a restaurant exterior

Photograph: Mel Taing. Chinatown’s restaurants, especially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, used their windows to display artists’ work in order to counter the economic challenges and anti-Asian threats experienced in this neighborhood. Featured in this photo is the window installation "On Waves of Memory," painted by Soyoung L. Kim at Penang Malaysian Restaurant in 2021.

The exhibition “Endurance Streets 堅韌的街道: Resilience and Response in Boston’s Chinese Community” is a collaboration between the Chinese Historical Society of New England and Tisch College’s Program for Public Humanities at Tufts University. Created as a response to the economic distress and racially-motivated attacks impacting Boston’s Chinese-speaking neighborhood during the pandemic, this public-facing exhibition documents the past several years within this community and extends the narrative historically, bringing the struggles and the accomplishments of Chinatown over the past century into view.

The exhibition opened on September 15, 2022, and now has been extended through June 30, 2024. In total, thirty-two bilingual panels are displayed at street level on two buildings here (Two Boylston Street and 116 Harrison Avenue, at the corner of Kneeland Street). The installation presents digitalized imagery and texts about the neighborhood’s current challenges and its cultural vibrancy, including panels that present the work of seven contemporary artists alongside archival material. Together they document a century of inequities, resilience, and activism, with a focus on housing, labor, and neighborhood identity.

Significant material is drawn from the collection of the Tunney F. Lee (1931-2020), architect, professor of urban planning at MIT, and tireless advocate for this community. His archive was recently bequeathed to the Chinese Historical Society of New England. The exhibition introduces this remarkable collection, the largest and most comprehensive documentation of Boston’s Chinatown, and provides an important opening for community dialogue.

In late August of 2023 four additional panels were installed at the 116 Harrison Avenue location. A continuation of “Endurance Streets,” these feature five artists working at the Expressive Art Studio of St. Francis House, a residence for currently unhoused persons at 39 Boylston Street. Located steps from the other site of the exhibition (at Two Boylston), St. Francis House and its art studio are included as another site of both creativity and resilience in the Chinatown neighborhood. These panels can be viewed below, with the others from the exhibition. Learn more about the St. Francis House installation.

View the Endurance Streets Brochure View the Endurance Streets Flyer


This exhibition was made possible through a grant from the Tisch College Community Research Center, with additional support from the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University and Northeast Digital Imaging. The project was developed and curated by Diane O’Donoghue, Director, Program for Public Humanities at Tisch College and Leanne Loo, the project’s exhibition and curatorial assistant, in collaboration with our colleagues at the Chinese Historical Society of New England. 

View the Exhibition Panels