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Artist looks to brings San Francisco Chinatown back to life ahead of Lunar New Year

It’s no secret San Francisco’s Chinatown has been struggling to bounce back since the pandemic.

The neighborhood has attempted different ways to draw back crowds and with the Lunar New Year around the corner, people there are hoping a creative approach, and help from the city, could mean big business as they ring in the Year of the Dragon.

People won’t see the familiar red lanterns that have become synonymous with San Francisco’s Chinatown illuminate the sky. Instead, people could see artist Bre Gipson’s installation “Prismatic Shift.”

“Throughout the day it changes and each experience you have with it is different,” said the artist.

It’s a more modern take on the red lanterns. Her installation is right outside Edge On the Square, an arts and culture hub on Grant Avenue.

“We are talking about changing the narrative of traditional understandings of Chinatown and the people who live here, to a more contemporary narrative of the contributions of Chinese and Asian Americans through arts and culture,” said Joanne Lee of Edge on the Square.

This first installation is part of a new annual program for Edge on the Square. One of many, with a goal, “to bring our community together and to bring visitors to Chinatown to learn and experience the Chinatown of today,” said Lee.

Because businesses have suffered over the pandemic, Supervisor Aaron Peskin said quarterly sales tax figures have given an indication of just how slow recovery has been.

“Chinatown is not back to 2019 numbers,” said Peskin.

Which is why he’s on board with a $2 million proposal that would help businesses in neighborhoods directly impacted by the APEC summit.

He said an additional $250,000 would be used in the adjoining Chinatown, as the area didn’t get the business it had anticipated from the summit.

“We are on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year and thousands and thousands of people are going to be on the streets and we want to help incentivize that by having a little parking fee timeout,” said Peskin. 

It’s something the city also did in 2022 during the Lunar New Year to encourage more people to visit and patronize shops and restaurants.

“To see the streets and walk down them again after so long, I’m excited to get to explore some places again,” said visitor Elliot Starratt. 

Source: NBC Bay Area

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