Corky Lee on My Mind: Leland Wong
Children play in front of the International Hotel in Manilatown, San Francisco (ca. 1970s)
The International Hotel, commonly known as the I-Hotel, was a low-income single-occupancy residential hotel that was home to many Filipino Americans. In the late 1960s, real estate developers proposed demolishing the hotel and thereby displacing all the tenants, many of whom were elderly. Housing activists, students, community members, and tenants banded together to protest the eviction. However, all tenants were evicted on Aug. 4, 1977 and the hotel was demolished in 1981.
In the 1990s, the site was redeveloped, and in 2005, it reopened as low-income housing for seniors. The new building includes a community center and a mural dedicated to the original I-Hotel.
The boy in the box is then three-year-old Kingsan Lei, the son of the owner of the second hand store located under the International Hotel. Kingsan would later go on establish the popular Punch King line of punching bags.
This very print appeared in a photography show with Corky's work in 2017.
Leland Wong's art has been part of the Bay area’s Asian American community for more than 37 years. He grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown, surrounded by art goods and curios sold in his family’s business on Grant Avenue. His father's longstanding interest in art greatly influenced Wong so that by age 14, he had already decided to become an artist.
Actively involved with printmaking and photography since high school, Wong first began designing posters and handbills for street fairs and local Chinese community events. These emerging interests led to his enrollment in San Francisco State University, where he earned a BFA in 1975.
During the 1970s, he also became involved with Kearny Street Workshop, a Chinatown/Manilatown community art group (and today the longest-standing Asian Pacific Arts organization), where he produced posters and conducted workshops in screen printing and photography. Wong designed his first Nihonmachi Street Fair poster at Kearny Street in 1974, inaugurating a highly popular series that has continued for nearly three decades, while simultaneously working on projects with various community service organizations.
Wong has exhibited his art at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC.