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Lunar New Year celebrated with zodiac rabbit mural in Concord

Sage Loring, the founder of 333 Arts, on his community-based program that creates murals
Sage Loring, the founder of 333 Arts, on his community-based program that creates murals 06:49

CONCORD -- Along Willow Pass Road sits a parking structure beaming with a artistic celebration reflecting the Bay Area's  Asian-American culture.

It's a mural -- the work of 333 Arts and Oakland artist Emily Ding -- honoring Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rabbit. 

"I really want to use public art as something that everyone can access and everyone can appreciate," Ding said.

Ding is a full-time muralist, roaming around the country and world to add colorful stories to new places.  She has created hundreds of widely regarded works around the world. Among her most notable is a piece in Oakland's Chinatown that she did the the Dragon School, a community art program that dissolved a few years ago.

"I painted an Asian woman with swallows flying around her," explains Ding.  "I think it was a great experience because I think it became a fabric of their neighborhood."

For Ding, her work empowers her.

 She says it has been challenging at times in her career to be a young woman and person of color in a historically male-dominated industry.  But being underestimated is what has fueled her passion to continue to paint, knowing she can pave the way for all kinds of people and artists.

"I think there is always room for more diversity," Ding said. "In like the arts and also in the public art realm.  Being an Asian American artist, helping create things that the community feels inspired by."

333 Arts -- a fully volunteer-based organization -- approached Ding when they got permission to put a mural on the blank wall in a Concord parking lot.

Volunteer artists -- mentored by Ding -- came together to bring the rabbit zodiac sign to life. The project was made possible because of a contribution by the Brenden Mann Foundation.  

"My parents are Chinese immigrants," Ding said.  "As our many people who come to America. For me it is about both a homecoming just like the sense of belonging and family but also new beginnings and new opportunities. Like my own parents had a lot of opportunity in the US so I am just really grateful for that and I just want to honor my own ancestors and my like my own path as an Asian American."

Its design is symbolic of a red paper cutting, traditional in Chinese culture.  On the rabbit's body, the four flowers signify its place in the Chinese zodiac cycle.

Ding meets every mural she creates with a sense of responsibility.  To her, this is a way she can impact the world by giving an opportunity to connect to something new and learn more about the people in the community.

"We are all just trying to get by and you know that means like you know discovering the beauty of each other and our backgrounds," Ding said.

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