By Alec Clayton
The Chinese dragon mural in downtown Olympia will be dedicated Saturday, August 24 to honor Chinese-American history. The public is invited to attend the dedication at noon on the corner of Fifth Avenue SW and Columbia Street SE.
Dragon Mural Committee spokesperson Anna Schlecht said, “In 2015, I was inspired by a conversation with muralist Jean Nagai about the amazing places that became known as cities of murals. As I listened to Jean talk about how Olympia could rise to that challenge of becoming a city of murals, I felt the alley pavement move beneath our feet. These public art works define us as a community — diverse, harmonious, dissonant, insistent, illuminating.”
The dedication will be styled as a block party and is free of charge. There will be speakers and performers commemorating the early Chinese-American community that once thrived in this neighborhood. A free commemorative program will be offered as a memento from this mural dedication and there will be complimentary beverages for attendees. Food items will also be available for purchase.
“In 2018, an amazing young artist, Mymy Nguyen, had a vision of how to commemorate the early Chinese American community with a dragon mural, ultimately calling it the Olympia Dragon Mural,” Said Schlecht. “Mymy’s concept was to present the dragon outlined in relief by the art — essentially highlighting the fact that the dragon, like the early Chinese American business community, is no longer there. That concept inspired a group of Asian-American leaders and others to help this project come to life.”
The mural presents a side-facing dragon against the waves of the sea. Along the right side is a red column based on a traditional scroll with characters that read, “peace, harmony, community.” The dedication will culminate with an ancient Chinese tradition of “dotting the eye,” or the final brush strokes of painting the eye to bring the dragon to life and to complete the mural.
Nguyen explained the piece, saying “The dragon is a symbol of strength, ordinarily depicted in great detail. But in this dragon, we see only a silhouette — a ghost of the past strength, intention and motion of Chinese immigrants who left their homes, crossed the widest ocean, and came to Olympia for a better life. This is where they built a community. As a new immigrant, I hear the echo of their experiences; I feel it in my bones.This mural is a tribute to them; a remembrance that mourns the absence of their lost community here, and honors their bravery.”
“Some [murals] are commissioned for thousands of dollars, others painted for free as urgent artistic expressions,” said Schlecht, “they all become the oxygen that fills the lungs of our imagination. As the coordinator of a downtown paint program, I love supporting these projects however I can.”
Dedication of the Olympia Dragon Mural
Fifth Avenue SW and Columbia Street SE, downtown Olympia.
Noon, Saturday, Aug. 24