Chris Dunn's paper cranes are part of Asia Society Texas Center's 1,000 Cranes of Hope project, a socially-distanced twist on the Japanese tradition of senbazuru.

From crossword cranes to birds with “Whata-Beto” wings, Asia Society Texas Center’s new project puts a fun twist on an uplifting tradition, bringing communities together as we remain safely apart. Inspired by cranes’ symbolism of health and longevity in many Asian cultures, 1,000 Cranes for Hope encourages people to fold origami cranes and share them on social media. Once a thousand cranes are virtually collected by the Houston center, a video will be made showcasing everyone’s contributions to the project.

While brainstorming virtual interactive programming, the Asia Society team found the Japanese tradition of senbazuru to be a perfect fit for inspiring community interaction. Literally translated as “one thousand cranes,” the tradition comes from a legend that promises anyone who folds a thousand orizuru, or a paper crane, will be granted their most desired wish. The wish that Asia Society has in mind is one we can all get behind—Houston’s collective health, hope, and recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The senbazuru tradition is especially meaningful and felt very relevant to what we are all experiencing right now,” says Stephanie Todd Wong, director of performing arts and culture. “It has allowed everyone—our staff, volunteers, and audiences—to feel hopeful and connected as a community again.”  

Although the project is currently unique to Asia Society’s Texas branch (there are hopes to expand it to other centers), over 750 cranes have been folded by folks across the country in just four weeks, thanks to the initiative’s online accessibility. Mayor Sylvester Turner recently added to the collection, joining HISD art teachers, local organizations, and many families in Houston and beyond. Some have even decided to fold 1,000 cranes themselves—watch out for paper cuts, y’all.

 For a how-to video and links to download origami paper, visit asiasociety.org.

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