Watch Jeffrey Yoo Warren Use the Past to Inform a More Just Future

Artist Educator

Tell us about yourself, your connection to Providence, and your work.

I’m a Korean American artist educator working with histories and archival research to reconnect with my ancestors. This often takes the form of woodworking, papercraft, and ceramics, but in the past couple years, it has also involved digital tools like 3D modeling, using old photographs. This approach began when I learned that I currently live in the downtown Providence neighborhood which was once Chinatown. I’m doing a residency at the Library of Congress in which I make use of these “relational reconstruction” techniques to explore our relationships with erased early communities of color.

What’s your motivation for doing this work?

My work builds meaning through dialogue with fellow Asian Americans, who are my primary audience and inspiration. It’s a way for me to connect more deeply with my own family and cultural heritage, and to take part in our collective history.

In what ways do you hope to leave an impact on our city in the coming months?

Though it begins in the past, my work is really about the future. By building and re-establishing connections with our predecessors, I hope present-day Asian Americans in Providence, and all residents, are inspired to envision a more just future. Learning about both the hard truths about our collective pasts, as well as the joys, lays important groundwork for reparation and healing.


What challenges do you anticipate having to overcome in 2024 to achieve these goals?

We live in a deeply unjust world, and I know many of us carry pain both from our own (and our ancestors’) experiences and heartache from witnessing world events. I write this as we hear daily of brutal attacks on hospitals in Gaza, and suffering around the world. I have to think of what many of our ancestors survived throughout history and feel them standing behind us; I see safety, dignity, and liberation for the oppressed peoples of the world as a challenge we must all live up to.

What’s your reason for optimism approaching 2024?

I’m struck by how much I’ve learned and grown, thanks to those I’ve met and worked with. None of us are “past” transformation in our lives. When I dream of the future, I dream of houses we could build together, ancestral crafts we could teach one another, connections and traditions we could re-establish and reinvent, and seeds we could plant.




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