Projects in Progress: Agnes Street Park

Karen Tam 譚嘉文
Brookfield Properties is developing a residential tower at 810 Agnes Street and is supporting the design and construction of a park on City-owned land adjacent to the tower. Funding for this project includes additional contributions for public art to be integrated into the overall design of the park.
The new park is located at 824 Agnes Street, the former site of the Chinese Benevolent Association (CBA) and in a neighbourhood known as the second Chinatown in New Westminster. The Agnes Street Park will celebrate and pay tribute to the municipality’s early Chinese Canadian community as part of an ongoing Chinese reconciliation process.
In 2023, artist Karen Tam was selected for her concept proposal that "draws inspiration from archival photographs and documents, creating a visual narrative that bridges the past, present, and future of this site. It reflects on the history and stories of the Chinese community in New Westminster, where the CBA building served as a hub and space to bring together family, kinsfolk, and friends, in its incarnations as a Chinese hospital, Chinese school, and meeting hall."
Over the past twenty years, my work has focused on the various forms of constructions and imaginations of cultures and communities through my sculptures and installation projects in which I recreate spaces of Chinese restaurants and other sites of cultural encounters. I look at how the corporeal experience of space allows one to understand its history and community. Working with a wide range of concepts, materials, techniques, and collaborations to create over 40 immersive installations, socially-engaged artworks, and public art projects, has given me the tools to successfully integrate artworks within museal, architectural, and public spaces, including Swallowing Mountains (2023), Dragons Chasing the Moon (2022/23), Place des souhaits /Arbre à souhaits (2021), and Blood and Tears (2018). A deep engagement with archival and collections research has also led me to question whose histories get to be collected and told, and to interrogate the narratives that have been constructed around the Chinese diaspora. How do we remember, represent, support, and simultaneously deny the erasures of our stories, spaces, and community? By actively bringing to light overlooked aspects of Chinese Canadian communities and culture through my artwork, my intent is to create counterpoints to accepted canons, official histories, public archives and collections.
Image Credit: Grove of Wild Bamboo and Sweet Peas 竹盛豆苗青 (conceptual rendering detail) by Karen Tam