Central Subway Art Murals

Have you been to Wentworth Alley in Chinatown lately? If you have, you will notice the alleyway has come alive with murals. Artist Justin Hoover, created two murals in the alleyway, “Flying Dragon” and “Abstracted (Oceans)” on Wentworth Alley with Gold Mountain Society, a local calligraphy group that has been working with Hoover over the past two years in the Central Subway Art project.

We invite you to come visit the beautification of Chinatown!

You can learn more about these Chinatown murals and others on our weekly

Saturday Public Art Walk.


Wentworth Alley, “Flying Dragon”     Justin Hoover, Gold Mountain Society  and community youth, 2013 

中央地鐵藝術創作胡智騰, 金山詩藝會

淘金流盡辛酸淚 築路鑄成開拓功

The Gold Rush sheds bitter tears

The road construction creates pioneering credit

Calligraphy & Poem: Yuen Kwan關卓中 撰書

The Wentworth Alley Murals are produced for the Central Subway art project, which incorporate collaborative workshops in 2013 between artist Justin Hoover and Gold Mountain Society. Together, the artist and local Chinatown calligraphy group created poems about the Central Subway coming to Chinatown and in their efforts blended traditional art forms with contemporary practices and technology to connect Chinatown with San Francisco and the wider art community. The mural is a product of a truly collaborative effort and ability of both sides to learn from each other.

In “Flying Dragon” Hoover and Gold Mountain Society incorporate a poem depicting the pioneering efforts of Chinese in building the railroads. Hoover uses the color of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency as a base color palette. The dragon is silver to look like a train, and the calligraphy marks in the background serve as dragon claw marks that resemble either stairs like an escalator into the subway, or train tracks going into the distance.  The traditional Chinese symbol of the dragon is redrawn in a nostalgic, 8-bit pixel art, reminiscent of early game culture to produce a re-imagined rendering of culture and connection to technology.

The artist incorporated a Dui Lian, or a traditional poetry form, depicting the hardship and pioneering contribution of early Chinese immigrants during the Gold Rush. “Digging for gold, (we) experience bitterness and tears. Building the railway, (we) are credited for its success.”

Consisting of two vertical sections of 7 characters each, the two lines have a one-to-one correspondence in their metrical length, and each pair of characters must have certain corresponding properties. A more literal translation is above.

Wentworth Alley, Abstracted (Ocean), Justin Hoover, Gold Mountain Society, 2014

For the next mural, the workshop inspired the “ocean” theme, which was selected as the color palette based on the colors in the poem.  They are green and blue and silver/grey to evoke the subway’s metal train or the “steel dragon.” It is an unlikely color in Chinatown and unique to this piece, as most of the colors in Chinatown are reds, yellows, golds, highly chromatic bright colors, and the artist made a conscious choice to do cool opposites in grey, silver and blue.  As the artist comments “It reminds me of the flow of the brush and the flow of water.”  Calligraphy and a poem by Mr. Zheng of the Gold Mountain Society about the railroad from the workshop sessions were abstracted for texture.  The Koi were added by Jeremy Novy as a finishing touch—a sign of good luck and prosperity to bring the piece into public space and onto the sidewalk.

中央地鐵壁畫  胡智騰, 金山詩藝會

蓝天碧海暖融融                             Green ocean, blue sky, a very nice and warm place.

賞覽金山坐鐵龍                             Taking “steel dragon”(subway) to sightseeing the Gold Mountain (San Francisco).

華埠創新呈特色                             Chinatown innovation presents special features.

耆英話舊顯愁容                             When senior talked about the old time they became significantly sad.

華人築路辛酸史                             Chinese railroad workers write a page of bitter history.

百載丹心卓越功                             Deserves a great credit for hundred years of loyalty.

告慰先僑今勝昔                             Today, to comfort these overseas ancestors is much better than the old time.

八方樂奏慶和衷                             Music comes from all directions to sincerely celebrate the peace.

中央地鐵通華埠有感而作           For Central Subway Chinatown Station

Poem Written by: Zhang Jia Xiu 張家修Calligraphy: Zhang Huo 張活


“Flying Dragon” and Abstracted (Oceans)”: Part of the Central Subway Art Project for Chinatown Station

Painted and made into a mural by Justin Hoover and CK1; Poem translated by Lauren Huang

 Walter U Lum Place, “Dragon and Phoenix, Central Subway Mural” Feng Jin, 2014

In this piece, the artist incorporates traditional symbols of the dragon and phoenix with his signature style.

About the Artists
Justin Hoover is a curator and time-based artist dealing with cultural translocation through body based performance, video and installation. His curatorial practices specializes innovative, collaborative, community-based projects.
Feng Jin’s work focuses on the evaluation of both American and Chinese cultures. One of his signature style uses twisted calligraphy-like characters, characters with no meaning, to represent language and communication.
About the Murals

The Murals are part of a larger two-year long art project called Central Subway – Journey to Chinatown, to engage the community and transform public spaces in Chinatown. Three murals are now completed in Wentworth Alley and Walter U Lum place, with a fourth on its way to be completed later this summer.

Upcoming events for Central Subway Art Project:

Fall 2014: Hou Yumei mural

2015: Beili Liu installation

CENTRAL SUBWAY  ART PROJECT ENGAGE the public in the creation of artworks that celebrate the experiences of the Chinatown Community and Chinese-American immigration. 參與公眾創作的藝術作品,為慶祝華埠社區和美 籍華人移民的經歷。 CREATE a spectrum of artworks with visual, literary, and performing artists. 創造一系列包括有視覺,文學和表演藝術的藝術 作品。 CELEBRATE the values of traditional and contemporary aesthetics with the community. 慶祝傳統和當代美學價值互相結合的社區。 PROMOTE the value of the Central Subway to Chinatown and the SF community. 推廣中央地鐵由華埠鏈接到各舊金山社區的價 值。 Funded by the San Francisco Arts Commission as part of the Central Subway Temporary Projects Program 華埠之旅 是中華文化中心的兩年藝術計劃,由舊金山藝術委員會中央地鐵藝術方案贊助。中央地鐵短期藝術活動

Part of the Central Subway Art Project for Chinatown Station

In collaboration with Chinese Culture Foundation, Chinatown Community Development Center, with support from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Francisco Arts Commission, and Grants for the Arts.


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