UBC Civil In The Media – Artist paints Vancouver Chinatown’s historic buildings to shed light on once ‘thriving’ neighbourhood

Originally published in: CBC News

Donna Seto, who works in our Department as Manager of Research and Strategic Initiatives, was recently featured on CBC News for her art, which are creating a splash on social media.

Seto’s illustrations are based on archival photos to show what the buildings looked like when its businesses were flourishing.

The paintings have received hundreds of likes on Twitter, and Seto says her work has sparked conversations with people who have fond memories of the neighbourhood.

The Vancouver-based artist says the project is a way to shed a positive light on Chinatown and to create dialogue around ways to revitalize the area, which has seen increasing crime and vandalism.

“It’s an opportunity for us to kind of really rethink what it actually looks like and how we can actually preserve these buildings,” she said.

Fred Mah, president of the Chinatown Society Heritage Buildings Association, says he has seen a few of Seto’s pieces, which remind him of when the neighbourhood was thriving.

From the 1950s to 1970s, he says, the streets were packed with people visiting the shops, restaurants and nightclubs in the area.

“We really, really enjoyed going down there,” he said.

Seto has painted some of the 12 historic buildings looked after by the Chinatown Society Heritage Buildings Association, including the Cheng Wing Yeong Tong Society Building and the Chin Wing Chun Society Building.

Donna Seto’s portfolio includes research development, EDI&I initiatives, and strategic planning. She works in partnership with SPARC and APSC Research & Partnerships team, and advises the development of strategic communications in the Department of Civil Engineering.