Organizing a parade in the midst of a global pandemic when gatherings of over 20 people are not allowed is hard; however, the first priority was to create something beautiful for the community to enjoy, parade spokesperson William Gee said.
This year, Parade Director Harlan Wong and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce had to think how they would host its annual Lunar New Year parade and festivities when San Francisco County has enacted an order prohibiting large gatherings.
A press statement released on Oct. 31 announced the chamber’s decision to cancel live events in lieu of a public art project. Ultimately, this decision came to Wong.
“ It was becoming clear that this thing was not going away,” project director Stephanie Mufson said. Mufson, a first-year graduate student at SF State, runs the company Parade Guys that works annually with the chamber to create floats for the parade.
“[Wong] reached out to me and said, ‘I don’t think we’re going to do the parade. I have an idea for a public art project. And do you think we can make this happen?’ And I said, Yes, of course.”
In lieu of the floats, the chamber has erected 11 life-size Oxen statues across San Francisco and the Bay Area. Although the procession is cancelled, the chamber will host a parade special that will be broadcasted by partners KTVU Fox 2 and KTSF 26 on Feb. 20, at 6 p.m.
“We worked within the guidelines of city health officials to try and produce the broadcast special which we think everyone will enjoy,” Gee said.
Mufson has created over a dozen years worth of floats, completing a whole Chinese zodiac cycle at Parade Guys. Like previous years, the Oxen project was entrusted to Mufson’s company and will be displayed across the city until March 14.
The Ox, in Chinese culture, represents honesty and hard work. This year, in light of COVID-19, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce is using the Oxen to highlight the fortitude and strength of the community.
“Like an Ox, with fortitude and hard work, together we will build a bright and resilient 2021,” reads the statement from the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce.
One of three statues that Mufson helped create is being displayed at Salesforce Plaza. This statue, dubbed the Ancient Technology Ox, is decorated with Chinese inventions such as fireworks and the umbrella pictured on top of colorful clouds to symbolize connectivity by technology; painted at the feet of the statue are plum blossoms representing roots and community.
Mufson first started as a painter at Parade Guys, then called East West Floats. As Mufson gained more interest toward the managerial side of the company, she became more and more involved in construction, planning and management.
“Yeah, I just got my hands into every aspect of it and then when I took over the company, obviously, at that point, I already knew all of it,” Mufson said.
Parade Guys usually creates around 20 floats, but instead of creating over a dozen visual moving-vehicles that are viewed from 30-feet away, Parade Guy’s was tasked with fitting entire truckloads of art into only 11 interactable life-sized cows instead.
“Our first priority was creating something beautiful for the community to enjoy, and to bring a little light and color to these challenging times,” Gee said.
Artist and fashion designer Monique Zhang is one of the creatives behind the “XoXo Ox” statue that is displayed at Civic Center. Zhang’s Ox represents the vigor and vitality of our elders, and embroidered on the cow are the Chinese characters “樂齡活力 (Lè líng huólì)” which translate to “Senior Vitality,” according to Zhang.
“This parade event will provide many a chance to feel special next to the ox,” Zhang said.
Zhang aimed to “dress” her Ox similarly to the traditional silk fabric Chinese attire. The Ox sports metaphorical designs that represent shared roots of generations.
“I like the fact that there was an evolving process in creating the ox. We were all designing [separately] … I had to rely on my trust of myself and the project manager,” Zhang said.
One of the statues has found a home in Stonestown Galleria. The Cruise sponsored Modern Tech Bull created by artist Brian Travis Williams represents the connection with our friends and family through means of transportation.
“One of the things that’s been most exciting about this is that it’s going to be able to have a longer life …We put in months of work into what we do, and it goes out for six hours … So being able to put our energy into something [like that]… feels really good,” Mufson said.
Mufson said she has taken advantage of having less work by returning to school determined to learn Computer Aided Design, commonly known as CAD, which Mufson described as technical drawing on computers.
“It was a thing that I felt I should know for a long time, but I was always so busy … So as soon as we had COVID hit and my work slowed down, I went ‘Oh, this is a good opportunity,” Mufson said.