Historic street in Chinatown gets beautiful mural as part of comeback campaign

One of the most historic streets in Chinatown now boasts one of the most colorful street murals in the entire city.

The city unveiled this weekend “Rice Terraces,” a 4,800 square foot asphalt art mural created by artist Dasic Fernandez along Doyers Street between Pell Street and Bowery. It was created in partnership the city’s Department of Transportation and the Chinatown Business Improvement District as part of the ongoing effort to promote the neighborhood’s businesses and bring tourism back to the community.

Rice Terraces features 44 vibrant colors along the bending roadway running through the heart of the neighborhood, and home to an array of long-standing restaurants and other businesses. Fernandez drew his inspiration for the mural from rice cultivation terraces commonly found around China.

“We used the Anamorfism technique to be able to create a 3D experience. If people look from the corner of Pell Street or Bowery, one can see how the shapes transform into volumes,” Fernandez said. “I wanted to create a design that can be integrated in its environment.”

Community leaders hope the mural serves as a new attraction for visitors returning to Chinatown as the city continues to reopen. The neighborhood was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic long before the first official case was detected in New York City in early March 2020 — as reports of the virus’ origin in Wuhan, China sparked fear, misinformation and discrimination that kept visitors away.

But Chinatown, much like the rest of New York City, is now on the long road back to recovery. Wellington Chen, executive director of the Chinatown BID/Partnership, sees the Rice Terraces mural as key to the community’s rebound.

“We are very impressed by the speed in which this artistic team was able to accomplish this mural, allowing that much more time for the community and the public to enjoy this great outdoor setting,” Chen said. “This colorful and delightful tapestry is also reflective of how food and rice have historically been grown in our culture by terracing in difficult terrains, and why the greeting of ‘Have you eaten yet?’ is our normal way of greeting one another. Now, it is time to invite everyone to come on down!”

The Rice Terraces mural will be on display for up to 11 months, and the Chinatown BID will bear the responsibility for its maintenance. 

“Over the past year, New Yorkers have learned the precious value of shared open spaces, and projects like these will be crucial in the city’s recovery,” said Edward Pincar, the DOT’s Manhattan borough commissioner. “Doyers Street is a heavily trafficked corridor filled with wonderful storefronts, restaurants, and now this beautiful artwork. This new mural will revitalize and reactivate local commerce as well as encourage residents and visitors to immerse themselves in the historical culture of this community.”