By: Peter Crimmins
Philadelphia’s newest public sculpture will be unveiled Thursday. Four bronze dragons are suspended above a parking lot in Chinatown. The work was funded by the Redevelopment Authority program which requires new developments to invest 1 percent of construction costs toward public art.
The 1500-pound dragons squirming on top of thin stainless steel poles look precarious at 9th and Arch Streets. Sculptor Ward Elicker was inspired by Chinese New Year parades where dragons are held aloft by bamboo poles. Elicker says the snakelike dragons are meant to be a welcoming gateway into Chinatown, not an image of ferocity.
Elicker: “The western dragon is a much more feared creature. The Asian dragon is much more benevolent. It’s more of a creature that brings luck and prosperity to people… I’m hoping to bring lots of prosperity to Philadelphia and Chinatown.”
The four dragons cost a total of three hundred thousand dollars. They were commissioned two years ago by the Parkway Corporation, which owns the parking lot and adjacent condominiums. Construction of the condominiums required the one-percent investment in a public art installation.
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