There’s no Chinese New Year parade, but the Year of the Ox still rocks with 11 life-size ox statues painted by the artists who normally make the parade’s fantastic floats.
We’ve been denied all manner of joy in the pandemic-ruined last 11 months. But the cancellation of the 2021 Chinese New Years parade is not just a humongous cultural loss, it's an economic calamity for our storied SF Chinatown. Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s office recently told Hoodline that Chinatown small businesses typically make “30% of their income in that one week alone” leading up to the parade, and this year that’s just gone.
But the razzle-dazzle of those magnificent parade floats will live on in a socially distant and “enjoy it by yourself” fashion, as the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco has commissioned several parade float artists to celebrate the Year of the Ox with 11 life-sized ox statues that now stand tall and proud at various locations across the city (and one at the Oakland airport).
The project is called Ox on Parade, and the above map shows you where each of these oxen can be found. But the dynamic map on the Chinese New Years Festival website provides oodles of detail about the exact locations, the artists who created each ox, and the backstories and symbolism incorporated into the statues’ design. There’s also a Google Maps Ox on Parade map with pinch-and-zoom capabilities if you want to hike out and navigate your way to each one, all hand-painted by the team at Parade Guys who typically produce your Chinese New Year parade floats.
“Down from our normal team of 20 to 30 artists, we made these with only seven artists total, from scratch,” Parade Guys owner and Ox on Parade creative director Stephanie Mufson tells SFist (she designed and painted the one above). “Unlike the other painted public art pieces people have seen around, these are not molds, but each one is hand carved by Lacey Bryant — making each one unique.”
In addition to the ox seen above at SFO and the Oakland airport, there are of course a couple in Chinatown proper at Portsmouth Square and the Chinese Hospital. More oxen can be spotted downtown at Union Square, Civic Center, Embarcadero 4, and Salesforce Plaza. There’s also one at Pier 39, plus more at Stonestown Galleria and by Lake Merced at Lakeshore Plaza.
Each of these babies will be auctioned off after their public display ends March 14, with all proceeds benefiting nonprofits and charities like the Chinese Cultural Center, the Chinese Historical Society, the YMCA of SF Chinatown, and others. The whole concept is similar to the Hearts in SF project, but it’s not a replacement. Those Hearts are still coming too in time for Valentine’s Day, and this year’s batch will make their debut in a virtual event on February 11.
Images: Luciana Ng and Stephanie Mufson