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Northwest Chinese American Artist Talk: Cheryll Leo-Gwin, “Larger Than Life”

June 13 • 6:30 pm

“Larger than Life: Oral Histories of the Chinese and Shanghai Jewish Communities in Paintings, Prints, Sculpture, Photographs, and Animation.”  

Northwest Chinese American multimedia artist Cheryll Leo-Gwin shares her latest work-in-progress inspired by oral histories collected from Chinese Americans, Chinese nationals, and Jewish refugees who fled to China during WWII.  

Leo-Gwin is a fourth-generation Chinese American born in Canada at the end of two simultaneous Chinese Exclusion Acts, one in America and one in Canada. As a result, her family was separated for five years. Her work often addresses the impact of legislation affecting marginalized and specifically Asian communities.  

In her many travels to China, Leo-Gwin collected stories from the Misty Poets of China, young artists, poets, musicians, and philosophers, who—at great risk to their lives—held underground salons and exhibits under the radar of the government. She also discovered the history of the Jewish enclave in Shanghai, where WWII refugees escaped the Nazis to find refuge among the Chinese. From 1938-1941, 20,000 Jewish refugees fled to Shanghai, known as “the port of last resort” when the borders of most European countries were closed to them. Leo-Gwin threads these oral histories together into the fabric of disenfranchised communities. She will share one of her digital works-in-progress including photographs from a local Jewish family’s history in Shanghai. 

Leo-Gwin presents these “larger-than-life” histories through paintings, sculpture, prints, and animation. Often heartbreaking, sometimes heartwarming, these stories bring healing and build understanding.  

Jack Straw Cultural Center in downtown Seattle will host a solo show of this work in July. Learn more >>. 

Registration requested for the reception sponsored by StoryBoards Northwest, Members of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Dancing Goats Coffee, and Sholom Tea.  

SJCC Arts + Ideas, a recipient of sustained support from 4Culture, is proud to partner with and host Leo-Gwin’s public-benefit presentation, a requirement of her 4Culture funding.  

Part of the J’s Chew on This! Speaker Series, featuring authors, chefs, and thought leaders to feed your mind, soul, and palate. 


About the Artist 

Cheryll Leo-Gwin is a fourth generation Chinese American born in Canada to a Chinese American father and Chinese Canadian mother. Her family was separated for five years due to the Chinese Exclusion Acts in both countries. Sen. Warren Magnuson (D-WA) helped them immigrate to the U.S. shortly after the country’s act was repealed. Raised in Seattle’s predominantly white Beacon Hill, she didn’t question what being Chinese meant until decades later. Leo-Gwin earned her BFA and MFA from University of Washington while raising two children as a single mother. Learn more about the artist, her journey, artwork and public sculptures in Chinatown, Beacon Hill, and Redmond here >> 



Additional Details   

Event Details + Box Office Policies
• General admission | Doors open 30 min. before showtime
• Patrons will receive a reminder email with event details and livestream links one (1) hour before showtime.
• Concessions, including wine/beer for sale before the show in the J Café. Presale purchases require proof of purchase and valid ID. No outside food allowed.
• Facility and processing fees apply at checkout
• Please view our Welcome Back page for current venue policies, including vaccination and mask policies.
• Patrons agree to all SJCC terms and conditions above and at SJCC Box Office + Venue Policies Page. 


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(response time: 24 hrs weekdays-48 hrs weekends) 

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Stroum Jewish Community Center
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Mercer Island, WA United States
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