Meet the Artist: Leanne Gan

Meet the Artist: Leanne Gan
Meet the artist behind our latest Artist Edition lens cloth, Leanne Gan, and the founder of Chinatown Community Fridge, Marilyn Shi.

Leanne Gan is a queer Chinese-Filipino designer and illustrator based in Brooklyn. During the pandemic, she has created art to support small businesses and nonprofits through multiple art fundraisers. Learn about the love of Manhattan's Chinatown that inspired her illustration.  

What was your inspiration for this illustration?
I was inspired by fruit and veggies I grew up eating and see on walks by the fruit vendors on Mulberry Street in Chinatown. 

What led you to pivot to working with nonprofits?
I was completing the 100th design edit of a hotel menu for an ad agency I worked at and then really asked myself “Is this how I want to spend my life?” Working on community orientated projects have always given me joy and a sense of purpose and I decided to pursue that full time. Forty hours a week is a lot in life! I really wanted to spend that on something I cared about.

Three places you find inspiration?
My fridge. My community. HK Supermarket. 

What advice do you have for someone pursuing a creative career?
Shoot your shot and don’t spend too much time considering whether or not you should. I was so anxious and had so much self doubt before starting an illustration account. It took a global pandemic for me to start posting art on the internet and my only regret is not trying sooner.

Favorite Covry frames?
The Rana Hunter frames!!!

Marilyn Shi is the founder of Chinatown Community Fridge (located on 96 Baxter St., NYC) and a rising senior at Stuyvesant High School. Chinatown Community Fridge champions the idea of “take what you need, share what you can” by providing free food to anyone who passes by, regardless of identity, documentation, or perceived “neediness.”  Community members contribute to the fridge by adding their own donations while taking what they need and respecting the needs of others. By providing culturally-considerate foods such as bok choy, scallions, bitter melon, and hot meals from local small businesses and larger donors, they recognize the unique backgrounds of our Chinatown neighbors. 
    What led you to start Chinatown Community Fridge, and how does it work?
    As a Chinese American high schooler, I wanted to make a direct impact on the Chinatown community and inspire my peers to do the same. I strive to make our community fridge a pillar of support for immigrant communities of color like Chinatown, which are deprived of affordable, nutritious produce as 24% of the population struggles below the poverty line—one of the highest poverty rates in NYC. 
    Thus, our community fridge serves hundreds of Chinatown’s most vulnerable community members, mostly senior citizens and immigrants. Our student and adult volunteers pick up food donations from donors such as Doordash, Whole Foods, Gorillas, Rethink Food, and TAO Downtown. We also support local street vendors by buying fresh fruit to share with our community. Every month, our team assembles and organizes 100+ door-to-door care package deliveries to our Chinatown elders in the Chung Pak senior housing building with the help of Send Chinatown Love. By empowering and engaging our community through mutual respect and compassion, we are recognizing each others’ humanity. While Chinatown Community Fridge was initially created to just tackle food insecurity, it has become a pub of community engagement as we’ve expanded into a family of passionate and caring community members from all over NYC.
      Can you share one of your favorite moments?
      When I think of our community fridge, I think of our Chung Pak 婆婆 (grandmother) holding up a huge 番薯(sweet potato) she chose from our community fridge. Her smile was beaming through her mask! Moments like these make the labor of love it takes to run our community fridge 110% worth it. The continued support our community fridge receives from our New York neighbors truly keeps us up and going.
        What's next for Chinatown Community Fridge and how can people help support?
        Our fridge is a way for the coming generations to gain a deeper understanding and respect for their cultural backgrounds while connecting with new, diverse people. I am always looking to continue expanding our positive impact through partnerships with community organizations, schools, and anyone who is looking to get involved!
        Anyone can volunteer with us by sending us an Instagram DM @chinatown.communityfridge or by donating fresh produce in-person or via our GoFundMe.
          Three favorite places in Manhattan's Chinatown?
          Columbus Park will always have a special place in my heart as the first place I first began fighting food insecurity in Chinatown. Every Friday after school, my team and I distributed fresh produce to senior community members at the park. Columbus Park is such a beautiful place to watch Chinatown locals of all ages playing chess, soccer, or simply relaxing.
          Pasteur Grill & Noodles is our team’s go-to spot for a comforting Vietnamese meal after a long day of community work. Everything on their menu is spectacular, and we always make sure to support local family-run businesses.
          Pearl River Mart has the coolest collection of Asian snacks, stationery, socks, and everything in between—truly heaven on earth!

          Favorite Covry frames? 
          I am absolutely in love with the Keid Rose, the Naos Champagne, and the Spica Black sunglasses!