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Grace Gee is bringing awareness to injustice and encouraging unity, one story at a time. In May 2022, the Louisville-based multimedia artist behind Healing Grace Studio began collecting accounts of racism and discrimination from members of the BIPOC community in Colorado and beyond on her website and at cultural events such as the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival and Asian Girls Ignite’s ElevAsian Night Market. Since then, she’s collected hundreds of heartbreaking stories, from tales of bias-motivated violence and microaggression to anecdotes about feeling like an outsider.
The social justice project, called Bubbling Up, is now on display at the Louisville Public Library. The exhibit features a collection of the narratives, which are hand written on clear spheres by Gee or original sources. Examples of the statements, many of which were submitted by individuals of Asian descent, include: “You must be related to Bruce Lee;” “In class I was once asked to answer a question to represent all Asians and then later placed in a group called ‘yellow fever’ by the same professor;” and “I’ve always struggled knowing who I am and fitting in.”
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The circular shape of the units symbolizes the spaces that people who are shielded from experiences of discrimination sometimes exist inside. “It’s about creating this community,” Gee says. “For people who are not writing bubbles, it’s about understanding what people are often walking around with that’s invisible. It’s about making what’s invisible visible through stories—bursting that bubble that a lot of white people who don’t face or experience discrimination live in.”
Gee’s desire to amplify BIPOC voices through her work is inspired by her bicultural upbringing and desire to heal past wounds. When she was six years old, Gee moved with her Chinese family to a small Canadian town where there were few Asians. “It was my first experience of the outside world and how I was viewed. It shaped my view of what being Chinese felt like,” she says of feeling unwelcome in the city and among her peers. “There was shame….There was embarrassment.”
Gee hopes that creating a platform for community members to share their experiences helps participants find solace, particularly during a time when racism and xenophobia are at an all-time high. But she also wants the stories to be a gentle reminder to be kinder and to try to understand what other humans might be going through. At the Bubbling Up exhibit, Gee also asks viewers to write thoughtful responses to bubbles such as messages of encouragement or empathy, which can help others understand that there are allies out there.
“I can’t tell you how many people [who read or share stories] say, Oh, my goodness, I thought I was the only one who experienced that,” she says. “Really, that’s what I wanted people to know: They’re not alone.”
Gee will continue gathering anecdotes at the Louisville Library exhibit and events (follow her on Instagram for the latest updates) and on her website. Her goal is to accumulate 500 stories by the end of the year.
Bubbling Up is on display on the second floor of the Louisville Public Library (951 Spruce Street) through mid-June, 2023.