The installation, which celebrates Boston’s Chinatown community, came together after a year and half of community listening sessions, design, and fabrication. Wu created thirty lanterns to illuminate the history of immigration, the community’s culture, and resiliency.
Some of the images relate to the long and fraught history of Chinese immigration to the United States, beginning with the California Gold Rush in the 1850s to current times. Other images celebrate Chinese culture, the community’s strong commitment to education, entrepreneurship, and social justice.
The colors used throughout the installation are central to Asian culture: red, which symbolizes happiness and good fortune; and gold, symbolizing prosperity. Lanterns represent light and guide the way forward, illuminating the darkness. From humble beginnings as a candle flame surrounded by bamboo, silk or paper, the lantern has become an integral part of celebrations that foster hope and pave the way to a brighter future.
“The idea for this work evolved during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and as events were unfolding across the country that further fueled the Black Lives Matter movement,” stated artist Yu-Wen Wu. “It is my hope that Lantern Stories will offer opportunities for civic dialogue, social action, and simply the pleasure of experiencing the beauty of lanterns lit from within during these challenging times. The support from the Greenway Conservancy expanded the boundaries of my public artwork and allowed me to explore new ways of working with light.”
Yu-Wen Wu was selected through an open Request For Qualifications issued by the Greenway Conservancy and chosen by a community jury of Chinatown residents and leaders that includes the Josiah Quincy Elementary School, Pao Arts Center / Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Coalition, AVOYCE / Asian Community Development Corporation, Chinatown Main Street, City of Boston Arts Commission, and the Greenway Public Art Advisory Group.
“The beauty of Yu-Wen Wu’s artwork, Lantern Stories, and public art in general, is that it has the ability to respond to the immediate concerns that exist in today’s society,” said Lucas Cowan, Curator and Director of Public Art for the Greenway Conservancy. “Lantern Stories is a celebration and a reminder of the struggles and the empowerment of community, specifically that of Boston’s Chinatown and Chinatowns across the nation.”
Lantern Stories will be on display until December 2020. The lanterns will be lit daily from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.