By Andrew Hamlin
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Cindy Wong has lived in Seattle almost her whole life. She’s a University of Washington graduate, a mother, a writer, and a businesswoman. The new project she’s spearheaded will stand visible to anyone passing through the Chinatown-International District (C-ID), and hopefully, inspire anyone who sees it, to feel and think.
In collaboration with two artists, Vivian Mak and Patrick “Dozfy” Nguyen, Wong’s planned and executed three, new murals at the corner of Maynard Avenue South and South Lane Street, at and around the Bush Garden building.
Dozfy’s segment, a gold dragon on a black wall, was completed on June 25. Mak’s segment, inspired by the Chinese custom of the lion dance, was scheduled for completion on July 9. The third segment, due for completion on July 23, features large-scale reproductions of pictures, by Shishi Nguyen, from Cindy Wong’s first children’s book, “Starhug,” which comes out in late August.
Asked about inspirations for his segment, Dozfy gave a great deal of credit to Wong.
“She had the initiative to bring art to the property, and had a wonderful story. I’m honored that she gave me the creative freedom to recreate a mural that links a traditional Chinese icon with my visual style.”
Mak said she’s happy with how things turned out, but getting there took time and a few turns.
“We went through a lot of iterations before we arrived at [her section’s] current design. It started with elements from an old Chinese board game, [and] people dancing on the walls.” From there, her design turned to “several dancing lions, [then] to the final design where we all felt it was right. Fairly simple and traditional, with a lion head in the center, and dancing lions behind the text.”
As far as Wong’s own artistic development, she mused, “I don’t know about an artistic sensibility, but I have always loved to read.
As a kid, I was always reading in the car, at the dinner table, waking up on Saturday morning, throwing a blanket on the floor and surrounding myself with books to read all day. Some books have the ability to grow our imagination, mind, and soul, while making us laugh and cry. It was a natural segue to want to be a storyteller, to create something meaningful to connect with people.
“I didn’t study art, but at an early age, I had amazing teachers at Kimball Elementary School that encouraged kindness, empathy, and being part of a diverse community. When you have that support, it creates a positive environment to want to learn, create, and share. I am still in touch with my 2nd grade teacher, Ms. Christine Hackett, who contributed so much to ‘Starhug’ from her insight as a teacher, mother, and grandmother.”
The new project got started when Wong’s company, Vibrant Cities, built up a community network from its headquarters within the [C-ID]. When COVID hit, Vibrant Cities saw the community coming together to help each other, and felt moved to do something.
Local senior citizens, walking the streets and the parking lot, confessed that graffiti on the company building made them uncomfortable. Some of Vibrant Cities’ new hires felt the same way.
The company noticed that local artists helped local businesses beautify storefronts, and the idea for the murals evolved from that. Networking brought Mak and Dozfy into the project.
Asked about the other two local artists, Wong enthused, “Dozfy is such a cool dude. You meet him and instantly like him and his ideas. He is so established and still has such a big heart, to support and grow the artist community.
“Vivian is a deep soul. You can talk to her for hours about so many different things. I love her enthusiasm and passion. We are fortunate to have them both represent their work on the mural project.”
As Wong conceived the overall installation, each piece represents a different phase of a time in the neighborhood, bridging from a traditional past that still exists, to the changing present, and yet hopeful future of an inclusive, diverse community for all.
“We hope that people from everywhere will be reminded that the C-ID has a vibrant future,” Wong concluded. “Everyone has had a tough year, whether it is a senior that lives in the community or someone visiting the area.
“We will be happy to know one, or all the artworks, will bring a smile to someone’s face or heart, and a sense of safety as they walk around this part of the C-ID. The happy traditional lion represents courage, the golden dragon strength, and the Starhug pictures, that we are all connected. Together, we are a strong community that will continue to grow.”
Andrew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.