Shani Shih

Welcome, to Displacement Capital, land of Dispossession and Colonization, where cash rules and poverty drools. What will you do? Where will you stand?

The door is located at Ronald Reagan Building/Wilson Plaza

Artist Statement

In this era of intense, government-supported high-end development, the glittering facade that our nation’s capital upholds has never felt so dishonest. Thousands of luxury units across the city sit vacant, while renters struggle to stay afloat in the brutal housing market and thousands endure homelessness. From U Street to Columbia Heights, to Chinatown and Anacostia, in Black, Latino, Asian-majority working class areas alike – the disempowerment and loss experienced by our communities is real and palpable. I believe in the importance of public art in this context- in uplifting, transforming, and honoring communities. The goal of my artwork is first, to commemorate and continue spotlighting the ongoing battle for affordable housing that generations of communities have led and continue to lead. Second, to speak to the complex, multi-tiered nature of the affordability crisis—the dizzying array of institutional mechanisms that create and perpetuate its hold over the country. I used a mix of black-and-white and color painted sections depicting the pipeline of tactics that enable the affordability crisis; sections of the design are filled with wheat pasted collages of eviction writs, housing code violation reports, building condemnation notices, zoning and PUD hearing transcriptions, press articles; notes from community members and visual material from campaigns to save affordable housing complexes like Barry Farms, Congress Heights, Museum Square—solidifying the message with physical manifestations and tools of displacement. I used my perspective to uplift Asian American perspectives in particular, which like many are overlooked.



 

Biography

Shani Shih is a community advocate and multidisciplinary visual artist based in Washington DC, originally from New Jersey. She is dedicated to supporting communities in need through teaching and community arts, with a focus on serving underrepresented local Asian Pacific American communities. Along with her arts practice, she works as a tenant organizer and supports efforts to prevent displacement and preserve affordable housing, especially in DC Chinatown. During the 2016 primaries, Shani co-curated Bern the System!, a political street art showcase that featured 70+ regional artists. She served as a lead organizer for DC to Standing Rock, a four-city mural campaign spotlighting the indigenous-led movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline. In late 2016 she co-founded the 411 Collective, a graffiti/street art collective that supports local and national community empowerment & advocacy initiatives. In 2018, with the help of 1882 Foundation/Chinese American Citizens Alliance, she founded the Chinatown Art Studio, a youth art space servicing Asian Pacific American youth through multimedia art instruction and creative empowerment programming. She further facilitates community arts empowerment through ongoing collaboration with organizations like Asian American LEAD and NAKASEC.

Her personal artwork speaks at a visceral level; it features bold linework, gritty textures, and expressive human figures intertwined with harsh industrial structures, and represents everyday social and bodily experience in the stratified landscapes of the modern world. Through her creations, she aims to communicate a shared experience of suffering and endurance, as well as everlasting love and hope – providing comfort, strength, and acknowledgement to all.

Visit her website
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Thank you to our partners for hosting the artists during the painting of The Doors of Make Room