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Chinatown art installation celebrates Year of the Ox

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Chinatown art installation celebrates Year of the Ox
Andy Li's "The Herd" PHOTO: Courtesy of The Greenway Conservancy

On Feb. 12, a new installation sprouted in Auntie Kay and Uncle Frank Chin Park in the Chinatown section of Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway. “The Herd,” by local artist Andy Li, celebrates the Year of the Ox in a text and fiber art piece, a series of banners displaying messages in English and Chinese. The installation spreads a hopeful message of unity during a time when, like a herd of oxen, communities should be sticking together.

Andy Li -- the Herd

Banner detail from Andy Li’s installation “The Herd.” PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE GREENWAY CONSERVANCY

Lucas Cowan, Director and Curator of Public Art for the Greenway Conservancy, says, “With the natural movement and color of the banners flowing in the wind, Andy’s work reminds us of flowing fields of crops, which only come to fruition through hard work and determination of people, and historically, oxen themselves.”

The banners feature phrases like “Where There’s a Will There’s a Way,” and “Take Your Time to Get There,” allusions to the ox’s characteristics of perseverance and consistent effort. In some mythologies, the ox was sent from heaven to assist humans, mainly to prevent famine by working in farming conditions. This tale feels particularly timely as food insecurity concerns deepen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Andy Li's "The Herd" PHOTO: Courtesy of The Greenway Conservancy

Andy Li’s “The Herd” PHOTO: Courtesy of The Greenway Conservancy

The banners sport bright colors — green, yellow, pink and red — and attach to the bright red bamboo structures that line the winding path through Chin Park. The use of these existing structures lends a very organic feel to the artwork, as though these banners merely expose the undercurrent of Chinatown that was always humming beneath us.

“The Greenway Conservancy gave me the opportunity to bring my voice from the studio to the streets of Chinatown,” says Li. “I grew up in Boston. It is my home, and it’s an honor to create work that is accessible for everyone in our city.”

“The Herd” is the latest installation in the Zodiac series, which has been running annually since 2015. The series aims to celebrate the culture and heritage of Chinese New Year through the lens of young artists in the Boston community. It serves as a bridge between contemporary Chinese culture and art and the traditions and history that are so deeply rooted in the blocks between Washington and Albany streets.

Li’s piece is not merely educational and beautiful but means to provide an emotional reprieve during this time. Cowan says, “As we come out of this global pandemic and work to address our social and political histories, ‘The Herd’ creates a peaceful respite to promote self-worth and hope, and to contemplate community.”