Lunar New Year was February 12, ringing in the Year of the Ox. But downtown Manhattan is still looking festive thanks to Light Up Chinatown, an installation of 250 hand-painted lanterns that illuminate Mott Street. The brightly colored pink, orange, purple and gold beacons, decorated with auspicious characters and works from local artists, first went up on December 23, and plans are underway to light more streets as the crowd-sourced fundraiser has been a huge success.
A key player in the project was Joanne Kwong ’97, president of the storied Chinese-American goods store Pearl River Mart. She sourced the lanterns, partnered with other community organizers (including Patrick Mock, the manager of 46 Mott Bakery, who came up with the idea for the installation and Ying Yen ’95, executive director of the New York Chinese Cultural Center, who helped recruit the artists) and learned how to weatherize the finished lights to keep them in top shape through a brutal NYC winter.
“It felt really good to be doing something for the neighborhood,” Kwong says. “To see the lights turn on was breathtaking. All the hard work and sleepless nights really felt worth it.”