Chinatown Cultural Plan

Image is of a painted utility box in the Chinatown area of Boston. In black letters it says City of Boston towards the top of the utility box over a very colorful painting of an area in Chinatown.
Chinatown, Boston Utility Box. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Gathman.
Chinatown Cultural Plan

Chinatown Cultural Plan

The Boston Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture (MOAC) has engaged MAPC to provide technical assistance towards the creation and publication of a Chinatown Cultural Plan as an addendum to the 2020 Chinatown Master Plan 

This project was created in partnership with the Asian Community Development Corporation, Chinatown Community Land Trust, Pao Arts Center and Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy. The plan will be anchored by a collective vision that identifies the culture, history and heritage of Boston Chinatown with a policy agenda that links to the 2020 Master Plan’s goals for housing, mobility, health, environmental justice and open space. The Cultural Plan will include an updated inventory of the neighborhood’s cultural assets and strategies to preserve and expand cultural and artistic vitality in Chinatown. 


For more information about the project, Questions?” to “contact MAPC’s Associate Arts and Culture Planner Ananth Udupa at


Following a Call for Artists process in summer 2023, the Cultural Plan Working Group engaged an artist team comprising Heang Rubin, Lily Xie, and Mel Taing to join the project team and execute creative engagement with Chinatown communities, which will inform the Cultural Plan. The Artist Team will execute “creative interventions” in Chinatown, gathering feedback, stories, and visions from neighborhood residents, visitors, and workers – and will document these narratives in a storytelling product.


Heang Rubin  

Heang has been actively involved in Boston Chinatown since 2009 as a facilitator, advocate, researcher, community builder, storyteller/evaluator, teacher, and researcher.  These multiple roles enabled Heang to build productive, reciprocal, and generative relationships with youth, residents, workers, community leaders, artists, students, government staff, and others who care about the health, well-being, and future of Chinatown.  Because Heang’s perspective is to address community priorities, she has worked on a diversity of issues within the neighborhood including housing, problem gambling, emotional wellness, arts and culture, and open space.  Through this work, Heang is learning what it takes to move forward a community-driven policy agenda in Chinatown and how to work cross-sectors to build a healthy, thriving neighborhood.  Heang is also a writer and working on her first memoir project about faith, family, and forgiveness.


Lily Xie

Lily Xie is an artist and educator. Lily has collaborated with Chinatown residents and organizers on multiple storytelling projects since 2019 on topics including environmental justice, access to open space, and urban planning. Her approach to storytelling centers deep co-creation between artists and community members, with an emphasis on art as a platform for underheard communities to tell their own stories, on their own terms. Lily is currently an Artist in Residence for the City of Boston, and she holds a MA in City Planning from MIT. ​




Mel Taing

Mel Taing is a Cambodian-American photographer and educator. She has multiple collaborations within Chinatown through the Pao Arts Center as an exhibiting artist and a photographer for all exhibitions and art installations since 2020. Mel was also a teaching artist with the A-VOYCE program in 2022, facilitating community engagement to surface the dreams and hopes for the future Chinatown library branch. As a photographer, Mel works in the intersection between people and art - documenting exhibitions at arts institutions and serving her artist community through her photography and teaching opportunities. Beyond the camera, she is the Vice-Chair of MassArt Alumni Leadership Council. She is also currently a taiko apprentice of artist Karen Young, supporting a project called Older and Bolder, which seeks to provide a space for elders of color to address issues of racial equity and build community through the art of taiko.​

The Artist Team is currently running “creative interventions” to get at the question of “what makes Chinatown Chinatown?” and is collecting narratives from people who live, work, and play in this culturally and historically significant Boston neighborhood.

These activations include:

  • Humans of Chinatown Portraits & Stories  
    October 28, 2023
    SaturPLAY hosted by A-VOYCE
    Mary Soo Hoo Park
    Hudson Street Stoop
  • Humans of Chinatown Portraits & Stories
    November 11, 2023

Call for Artists: NOW CLOSED

The Chinatown Cultural Plan Working Group seeks submissions of interest from artists or artist teams interested in engaging with the Cultural Planning process. Following review of these submissions, the Working Group will invite qualified artists with relevant backgrounds to submit full proposals outlining a plan to infuse artistic practice into the Chinatown Cultural Planning process and identify key members of their team. Full proposals will detail how artist teams plan to engage with the Working Group over six months to:

  • Define key engagement questions
  • Organize creative interventions
  • Document the planning process
  • Build momentum and increase activation in Chinatown communities
  • Gather feedback via community engagement

Artists can be involved in two ways: 1) by submitting interest in leading a project team; or 2) by adding your name to a public Artist Directory shared with project teams seeking additional team members.

Request for Submissions
Please read the full Call linked below for more details and for instructions to submit interest in leading a project team or to be included in the Artist Directory:
Call for Submissions - Chinatown Cultural Plan Working Group

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Beginning in 2018, the Chinatown Master Plan Committee and Metropolitan Area Planning Commission led a participatory community planning process to update and publish Chinatown Master Plan 2020. This process ran in parallel with the City’s PLAN: Downtown Boston, with focuses on Housing, Public Realm, Mobility, Historic and Cultural Preservation and Air Pollution.  

In implementing priorities from the Chinatown Master Plan, community leaders saw the need for more strategies specifically designed to A) protect cultural activity within the community and B) create more coordination across Chinatown’s arts and culture stakeholders. The individual project partners (listed below) have each launched important public art, place-keeping and cultural programs and projects that together, and in close partnership with the City of Boston, can contribute to more than the sum of their parts.  

Chinatown will remain an important cultural center for the region if its immigrant, working class residents and small businesses remain integral to the identity of the neighborhood. The goal of the Chinatown Cultural Plan is to knit distinct programs and initiatives led by community partners and the City of Boston into a strong fabric that preserves and grows the identity of Chinatown as an authentic neighborhood and cultural center.    

Project Goals

The primary deliverable for this project is the creation of a Chinatown Cultural Plan, as an addendum to the 2020 Chinatown Master Plan, that will include the following:  

  • Collective vision and goals that link to the 2020 Master Plan's goals for housing, mobility, health, environmental justice, open space, and others;
  • Benchmarks for achieving the vision and goals;
  • Strategies for implementation that identify roles and responsibilities, with specific roles assigned to community groups, small businesses, the City of Boston, funders, institutional partners, artists and other individuals;
  • A summary of community engagement findings and data, identifying priorities and significant community assets. 

An additional deliverable anticipated for this project is an updated inventory of Boston Chinatown's cultural, artistic and historical assets.