Yue Moon Lantern Installation at Dragon City Mall Condo Entrance. Photography by May Shi
In celebration of Lunar New Year, this month in Toronto’s Chinatown you may spot glowing lanterns decorating Dundas Street West, thanks to the public art program Yue Moon 完滿 (meaning full circle, completion, full moon) developed in partnership by Chinatown BIA and STEPS Public Art. A collaborative effort among local community members, lead artist PUFF Paddy and artist facilitator Meegan Lim, Yue Moon was brought to life through a series of six intergenerational, multimedia, artmaking workshops, in which participants designed and created their own panel art for this year’s lanterns. Altogether, the project was able to engage with 146 community participants and create 188 unique artworks through four in-person and two online workshops. The lantern designs were inspired by the local Chinatown neighbourhood, its histories, personal memories, Lunar New Year foods and Asian identity and culture.
To learn more, we connected with artist facilitator and artist mentee Meegan Lim, who has worked on Yue Moon alongside lead artist Paddy Leung since its inaugural year in 2020.
AGOinsider: Can you briefly describe what Yue Moon is?
Lim: Yue Moon is a community-based, multimedia public art program led by artist and arts educator Paddy Leung that has been a part of Toronto Chinatown’s Lunar New Year celebrations since 2020. It strives to create accessible, culture-specific arts programming that is welcoming to an intergenerational community and encourages them to connect with their culture through art, meet neighbours and maybe walk away with a new friend.
Through a series of workshops, participants are introduced to multimedia artmaking techniques and themes tied to Chinatown’s histories, memories and intentions. The artwork is then incorporated into the unique laser-cut lantern design, inspired by traditional Chinese Palace Lanterns.
AGOinsider: How has the community responded to the annual exhibition and collaborative workshops?
Lim: As we enter the third year of this project, I think it says a lot that the community continues to welcome the project. From the workshops to the lantern installation, I am genuinely so glad that it has become an event that the Chinatown community looks forward to each year. The reception of the collaborative workshops has been filled with so much warmth and enthusiasm .. While the artwork and lanterns are beautiful, I would argue that the people who come out to engage with the program are what makes this project stunning − it’s definitely the driving force of why I’ve continued this project with Paddy until now. I was so happy to see an amazing range of people show up to the workshops, especially as we adapted to a hybrid workshop approach this past December. From individuals who were craving some art therapy to entire families, Yue Moon welcomed everyone through the physical doors at Cecil Community Centre and through the virtual ones on Zoom.
AGOinsider: Over the years, how has your creative approach evolved?
Lim: Over the years, especially the last three, we really had to adapt the approach of the project. The pandemic was an obvious variable that really pushed the team to reimagine what a lantern exhibit could be. Considering public health and safety was one important factor, but also accessibility to materials and digital literacy. This meant that we opted for an outdoor exhibit, as well as easy-to-find materials and a digital artwork submission process.
Thematically, we incorporated techniques and inspirations catered to the Chinese zodiac and traditional Asian folk art to provide a culturally specific and educational experience. This year, Paddy provided me with more creative freedom to connect the programming to my own illustration practice. As food and culture are two major topics of focus in my illustration work, it was the perfect thing to incorporate with the themes of the festivities. I honestly wouldn’t change anything this year;, I think we took the best aspects of the first two years and gave it our all. Paddy continues to be an incredible mentor and friend, I’m truly grateful for their guidance in the community arts realm. They have put so much heart into Yue Moon and I really hope that the people can see their efforts.
AGOinsider: What would you like to see more of in the city’s public art scene?
Lim: The first year of Yue Moon opened my eyes to the positive impact of community-based arts. It was very much a catalyst for some rediscovery and celebration of my cultural identity that encouraged me to explore that unapologetically. And it is so heartwarming to see that I’m not the only one who feels this way. This is what makes me so excited about cultural-specific arts programming that encourages multiple generations of a community to connect and share a space with each other. There is a great value to these environments that can foster a safe space for people to share their collective experiences in an evolving community like Chinatown.
Yue Moon 完滿: Tiger With Wings 如虎添翼 is now on view at the entrance of 519 Dundas Street West (Dragon City Mall Condo Entrance) in Toronto’s Chinatown through February 28. Produced in partnership with Toronto Chinatown BIA and STEPS Public Art, it is supported by Chinese Gospel Church Toronto, OCAD University’s RBC Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers, Cecil Community Centre, and Ontario Arts Council. This project is also an independent project in the 2022 DesignTO Festival forming Toronto’s design week.
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