The origins of the Centre can be traced back to the Chinese View art festival which was held in Manchester in November 1986. It was arranged by local artist and radio producer, Amy Lai, who felt there was lack of awareness of Chinese culture in Manchester and wanted to reconnect the local Chinese community with traditional Chinese arts and crafts. Initially she planned to hold an evening of Chinese music, but this quickly developed into a two week festival.
As a result of the festival, the Chinese View Arts Association (CVAA) was formed in 1987 with the aim to “to advance the education of the public in all forms of Chinese culture.” The organisation would achieve this by organising and promoting Chinese cultural events, and providing a bridge between local organisations and Chinese arts and cultural groups.
Due to the demand for the activities of the CVAA, the organisation opened the Chinese Arts Centre, an art and community centre, in 1989 on the first floor of 36 Charlotte Street. As well as supporting the aims of the CVAA, the Centre aimed promote an appreciation of ”Chinese life, culture, philosophy, and values” by providing cultural activities to reintroduce Chinese skills and culture to the local Chinese community as well as raise awareness in the wider population; give the local community a venue where they could learn about other cultures; and act as a vehicle in the active promotion of Chinese participation in other cultural events.Our first exhibition was Descendants of the Dragon which showcased objects collected from the local Chinese community which best demonstrated their lives in Manchester. While based at Charlotte Street, the organisation arranged touring exhibitions featuring traditional arts and crafts as well as the work of contemporary British based artists. In 1992, the Centre organised its first large scale exhibition of contemporary art, Beyond the Chinese Takeaway.
Despite an optimistic start, the Centre had struggled to make an impact. The mission and the aims of the Centre were adapted throughout this period and the mission of the CVAA became promote and enhance Chinese Arts and culture in Britain and to develop a positive identity of people of Chinese descent. The organisation also began to actively promote the work of artist of Chinese heritage and moved towards becoming a national agency for Chinese arts.
In 1997, the Centre was moved to a new venue on Edge Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, and opened with a solo exhibition by artist Adam Wei. During this period the Centre’s focus shifted away from traditional arts and crafts as its primarily concentrated upon contemporary art. The Centre also organised exhibitions which introduced the work of East Asian artist to UK audiences, including the touring shows Representing the People(1999) and Made in China(2001). In 1998, the Centre was damaged in an arson attack, which prompted he organisation to revitalise its activates. In 2000 the organisations company name was changed to from the CVAA to the Chinese Arts Centre Ltd.
From 2000, the Centre also began to commission new site-specific works by young British-based artists as part of its New Commissions scheme.
In 2003 the Centre moved into its current home on Thomas Street funded by an Arts Council England Big Lottery grant. The new RIBA award winning building featured a large gallery space, a resident artist studio, an education suite and a shop with a tea shop. The new space gave the Centre the room to expand their activities acting as an agency for Chinese arts in Britain and inviting collaborations with other organisations. The resident artist scheme built upon the work developed at Edge Street, and gave artist the space to explore their artistic practice through living and working at the Centre. The Centre’s commitment to helping the career development of British-based artist of East Asian heritage was also shown in schemes such as ‘PAD’ (Professional Artist Development) and ‘EAST’ (East Asian Strategic Training).The Centre also expanded its educational activities, and began to act as an agency to provide artist-led workshops in schools and other organisations.
From 2008 the Centre began to revisit its aims and objectives due to the changes in the economic and cultural environment. The Centre expanded its work with international artists and organisations and in November 2013, the organisation was renamed the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA). In 2014 CFCCA became a major partner in the third Asia Triennial Manchester, curating Harmonious Society, which brought 30 artists to 6 venues in Manchester.
In 2016, the Centre commemorated its 30th anniversary with a programme of events and exhibitions featuring artists, curators and academics who had previously worked with the organisation.