Year of the Dragon, 2024

Laser-etched plywood and acrylic paint

In Chinese mythology, dragons are associated with rain, wind, and bodies of water; they are seen as both creators and protectors of these landscapes. Within the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac, dragons are the only imaginary animal – they are built from the strongest parts of all other zodiac animals (a rooster’s wings, a snake’s tail, a cat’s claws, a mouse’s whiskers) and said to possess magical qualities. Inspired by these ideas, artist Ponnapa Prakkamakul began to see The Greenway’s linear, serpentine-like form as a dragon that protects and brings joy to neighborhoods along Boston’s waterfront.

Prakkamakul drew upon this context to create a 20-foot long wooden dragon’s head, locating the home of The Greenway dragon in Aunty Kay and Uncle Frank Chin Park, pointing towards the Chinatown Gate. To reflect the multicultural nature of Boston’s Chinatown community, Prakkamakul painted one side of the dragon’s head sculpture in shades of blue, representing the character of the water dragon, while the other side was rendered in reds and oranges, representing the character of the fire dragon. Keeping joy and play at the center of her work, the artist invites viewers to engage with the installation in multiple ways: you can walk up the sculpture as if riding on the dragon, explore neighborhood surroundings through a rainbow-colored kaleidoscope feature, or play with the built-in hand drum.

Photos by Lee-Daniel Tran

The artist invited multigenerational Chinatown community members to collectively design the dragon’s visual form, colors, and magical qualities through a workshop series. By sharing personal stories, drawings, and ideas, community members envisioned this unique dragon and the superpowers they hope the dragon brings to Boston Chinatown in the year 2024. These handwritten blessings are etched onto the inside panels of the sculpture in both English and Chinese calligraphy.

Contributors to the dragon design included community members and residents from Quincy Tower, the Pao Arts Center, public library visitors, AVOYCE youth from the Asian Community Development Corporation, students from Josiah Quincy Elementary School, and students from the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center’s Red Oak program. Prakkamakul’s Year of the Dragon proposal was selected through an open call process in 2023, juried by a multigenerational group of artists, youth, and community members with deep connections to Boston’s Chinatown. 

(From left to right) Photo credit: Tarik Bartel, Katy Roers, Jose Miranda, and Mel Taing

  • Ponnapa Prakkamakul (she/her) is a multidisciplinary artist and landscape architect based in Massachusetts. Born in Thailand to a third-generation Chinese family, Prakkamakul relocated to Hong Kong and then to the United States in 2009. Inspired by her multinational background, Prakkamakul’s work explores the relationship between humans and our environment, focusing on how we create belonging amidst cultural displacement. Using found materials foraged from landscapes and stories collected from local communities, Prakkamakul aims to create site-specific artwork cultivates a stronger sense of place, and deepens connections to our built environment..

    Her past community-engaged projects include Joyful Stitch (2023) supported by Now + There’s Public Art Accelerator Program, Message From a Sidewalk (2022) with Urbano Project, Where We Belong (2021) with A-VOYCE youth from the Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC), and Sampan (2019) with Chinatown residents through the Residence Lab Program organized by ACDC and Pao Arts Center. Her work has been featured in the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, and the Provincetown Banner.

    Prakkamakul earned her Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture with honors from the Rhode Island School of Design, where she was a recipient of the Lowthorpe Fellowship Award. Presently, Prakkamakul is a registered landscape architect at Sasaki, an award-winning interdisciplinary design firm in Boston, MA.

     

  • The Greenway Public Art Program is exclusively funded through grants and private sources, including the generous support of The Barr Foundation, the Deborah Munroe Noonan Memorial Fund, Goulston & Storrs, Meet Boston, and the Wagner Foundation.

    The Year of the Dragon was made possible with additional support from TD Charitable Foundation.

  • The Greenway is a contemporary public park in the heart of Boston. The Greenway welcomes millions of visitors annually to gather, play, unwind, and explore. The Greenway Conservancy is the non-profit responsible for the management and care of The Greenway. The majority of the public park’s annual budget is generously provided by private sources.

    The Greenway Conservancy’s Public Art Program brings innovative and contemporary art to Boston through free exhibitions that engage people in meaningful experiences and dialogue with art, each other, and the most pressing issues of our time. Past Greenway exhibitions can be viewed on the Conservancy’s website