Lanterns represent light and guide the way forward, illuminating surrounding darkness. From the 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.
Lantern Stories celebrates Boston Chinatown’s vibrant community. Thirty lanterns were created for this public art installation to illuminate the district’s history of immigration, its culture and resiliency. The images on the lanterns relate the long and fraught history of Chinese immigration in the United States. From early arrivals during the California Goldrush in the 1850’s to this current unprecedented moment, new immigrants and native born Asian Americans have confronted inequities on multiple levels. Other lantern images celebrate culture – art, calligraphy, music and performance, as well as the community’s strong commitment to education, entrepreneurship, and social justice. The colors used throughout are central in Asian culture: red, which symbolizes happiness and good fortune, and gold, symbolizing prosperity.
An interdisciplinary artist, Yu-Wen Wu’s work lies at the intersection of art, science and politics, encompassing many social and cultural issues. Her artworks include site-specific video installations, large scale drawings, sculpture and public art, frequently engaging the community.
Wu has worked with Boston’s Chinatown community on two previous public art projects: With/Out Water (2018) and Leavings/Belongings (2018-20). Born in Taiwan, Wu lives and works in Boston.
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 include 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. Throughout 2020, Yu-Wen Wu and the Greenway Conservancy collaborated with Jaywalk Studio to design, build, and install Lantern Stories.
Thank you to those who joined our October 29, 2020 live virtual event, Lighting the Way: Exploring ‘Lantern Stories’ in Boston’s Chinatown, featuring a conversation between Artist Yu-Wen Wu and Greenway Conservancy Director and Curator of Public Art, Lucas Cowan. Lantern Stories consists of 31 lanterns suspended over the central plaza of Chin Park that portray Chinatown’s history of immigration, culture, and resiliency. Focusing on each individual lantern created for this exhibit, the artist guided us through her vision and creative process.
Yu-Wen Wu, Artist
Lucas Cowan, Director and Curator of Public Art, Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy
Thank you to those who joined our July 21, 2020 live virtual event, a conversation on Lantern Stories, the public art project for Boston’s Chinatown by artist Yu-Wen Wu. Greenway Conservancy Public Art Project Manager Sheila Novak moderated a lively conversation engaging Chinatown leaders, community members, and artist Yu-Wen Wu.
The Conservancy received a number of questions and feedback from the community during this virtual event; find a collection of these questions, with answers from our panelists on our blog.