New Mural Brightens up Chinatown Kiosk

Artist Dingding Hu beside her mural at the information kiosk in Chinatown. (Photo courtesy of Hu)

The information kiosk in Chinatown has a new look. A mural depicting life in Chinatown was just unveiled on the side of its facade facing visitors and incoming traffic. The illustration, entitled “Welcome to Chinatown,” attracts many to the kiosk, which is located on the triangular island in the middle of Canal Street, with its fresh and vivid images that can be traced back to real scenes in the neighborhood. Dingding Hu, the young illustrator and digital marketing designer who created the mural, said she tried to interpret Chinatown from a new angle and connect the older and younger generations who live here.

In the work, which was commissioned by the Department of Transportation to promote its Request for Proposals for its “Gateways to Chinatown” project, viewers can find various Chinatown elements drawn in bright colors – the banners with both Chinese and English characters, a dragon dancing on the street, a panda, steamed buns, chili peppers and a tea pot placed on top of local buildings, and people practicing tai chi in the park. Everything looks vibrant, vigorous and energetic.

Hu said she combined traditional Chinese illustration with modern vector illustration techniques to draw the mural. She hopes the work can inspire people to look at Chinatown from fresh and modern angles, and also encourage them to learn more about the traditions of Chinese culture (…).

Hu, who grew up in Chengdu in Szechuan province, China, came to the U.S. to study for her MFA in illustration practice at the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2011 after she got her bachelor’s degree in graphic design from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. In her early days in the U.S. she faced great challenges because of the language and cultural barriers as many international students do. It took her a while to adapt to the new environment.

Hu said Chinese culture encourages people to be implicative, modest and humble. But American culture emphasizes self-confidence, self-presentation and courage in seeking opportunities. The two cultures both have their own strengths, and understanding the differences helped her to adapt better to her life and work.  

Hu, who had been dreaming of living in New York, moved to the city from Maryland right after she graduated. To her, New York is not a typical American city but a melting pot of global cultures. She loves the diversity here, benefits from the enormous amount of information she gets in the city, and obsesses over the high-quality foods from all over the world.  

In the future, she plans to promote her illustration work through online and offline marketing, and to open a shop with friends selling food-related products.

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