Origami crane sculpture sends support to sister city

Origami frontpage 2589_for website
On the third anniversary of the Fukushima earthquake, an origami sculpture created from more than 10,000 cranes hangs in the lobby of the Brendan Theater. The cranes represent luck and healing and were folded by the community to support Concord’s sister city in Japan. (Photo by Rochelle Douglass; rochellezphotography.com)

Concord has a sister.

Her name is Kitakami and she lives in Japan. And, for 40 years she and Concord have been sisters.

Like all sisters, when something bad happens to one, the other does something to make her feel better.

So, when the earthquake and tsunami hit Fukushima Prefecture three years ago and turned life in Japan upside down, Concord did something to make her sister feel better.

In Japan, legend has it if you make 1000 origami cranes for someone who suffers, you are sending good luck and hope for full healing and recovery. Concord did one better for her sister—she made 10,000 cranes!

Today, these cranes “fly” across the lobby of the Brendan Theater downtown Concord in a 60’ foot long banner that looks like an inverted rainbow.

The sculpture, which was unveiled to the public last Sunday, was created by Diablo Valley College teacher Sean Olson to mark the third anniversary of the Fukushima tsunami. Olson has worked with large origami installations in the past. His largest was constructed of 25,000 pieces that he made himself.

The sculpture, although installed in sections, looks seamless. Working with a glue gun, Olson hung the origami birds, some with wingspan of less than an inch, others up to a foot wide, in a soft, subtle pattern of color that stretches side to side across the lobby.

“I wanted texture rather than a solid set of colors,” Olson said. “Not blunt; softer, more subtle—unlike the space.”

His challenge with this project was not one of numbers, but of time. He typically needs at least six months to complete an installation. He didn’t start on this one until October.

The crane project first took flight after the tsunami, at a candlelight vigil in Todos Santos Plaza held by Concord Ambassadors, volunteers who coordinate the Sister City Program. The community responded first with 1000 cranes, then 5000, then 8,000, until finally more than 10,000 of the brightly colored, folded paper cranes filled the garage of one of the volunteers.

“I have been amazed at the community support,” Olson said. “People coming out to make cranes for something that happened on the other side of the world.”

The unveiling of the sculpture last Sunday kicks off preparations for the sister city visit in October when a delegation from Kitakami will arrive in Concord to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the two cities’ sisterhood.

The relationship began in 1974 when two cable TV executives met at a conference, became friends and persuaded their city leaders to approve the partnership. Every five years, a delegation from one city visits the other.

When the Kitakami delegation visits Concord in October, they will need places to stay. Those who wish to host a visitor should contact city clerk, Mary Rae Lehman (925) 671-3495 for information.

The origami sculpture will be on display during theater hours at the Brendan Theater, 1985 Willow Pass Rd. There is no charge to enter the lobby for those who only want to view the sculpture.

For more information on the Concord Ambassadors and Kitakami, go to www.concordambassadors.org.