New 'Chinatown Sweets and Pastries' art exhibit opens ahead of Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is fast approaching.  It's on February 5, 2019. 

On Friday night, San Francisco Chinatown launched a new art exhibit:  "Chinatown Sweets and Pastries." It features the work of Chinese American artists.   

"Beyond having tourist come to walk the streets of Chinatown and buy pastries, I want them to ask questions," says Emma Marie Chiang, a film maker and photography whose work is showcased.   

The exhibit is located inside a community space/ art gallery at 41 Ross Alley in San Francisco Chinatown.

During opening night, there was a demonstration by Derek Tam, owner of Dragon Papa Dessert.  

"It's all made with molasses and corn starch," says Tam who hand makes "dragon's beard" candy.  
According to Chinese history, it's candy served to emperors. 

"I started making this candy when I was 9. It's almost like 20 years," says Tam who is the fifth generation in his family to make this candy, a symbol of long life. 

Candies and pastries play a large role in the Chinese culture.

"A lot of the baked goods and candies are traditional and we eat them at certain times of the year for our holidays," says Erika Gee with Chinatown Community Development Center which oversees the exhibit. 

The most important holiday for the Chinese is the Lunar New Year.
The focus is on family and food.

The exhibit includes the display of seven neon signs created by Brandon Ly and Tiffani Hsieh, both first generation Chinese Americans.

The artwork is made of wood, acrylic and vinyl.  The couple says they are paying homage to a bygone era.

"They're very much inspired by things in the city and things we grew up with and flavors that we love, " says Ly.

And stories that were told to Ly and Hsieh by their parents and grandparents. 
As an example, Hsieh describes one sign that depicts a woman: "She is basically the goddess of the moon she has pet bunny she took with her as she's alone on the moon." 

The photos on the walls and the short films played at the exhibit are the work of San Francisco native Emma Marie Chiang.

Her short films give the audience a behind-the-scenes look at how the pastries are made. 
Chiang says she wants to inspire people to look beyond the storefronts and learn the stories of those who live and work in Chinatown. 
"I feel like I'm in a deeper sense, a part of the community here because I'm taking time to document their stories and to know them," says Chiang.
The exhibit is free and open to the public from Thursdays through Sundays.’

It will be available through February 24, the weekend of the Chinese New Year Parade.