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Artist Sean Olson folds one of more than 10,000 origami cranes for a sculpture of the paper figures at his Oakland, Calif., home on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014. The sculpture, commissioned by the non-profit group the Concord Ambassadors, will be installed in a Concord theater next month in time for the visit of a delegation from Concord's sister city of Kitakami, Japan. It is meant to express support and friendship for Kitakama on the third anniversary of the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami there. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

On Sunday, some 10,000 brightly colored, community-folded origami cranes will symbolically take flight.

A sculpture made from the cranes will be unveiled, which marks the third anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, and also kicks off the 40th anniversary of the Kitakami, Japan-Concord Sister City program.

Japanese lore says 1,001 origami cranes is a symbol of hope for a full recovery. So following the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan, the Concord Ambassadors organized a candlelight vigil in Todos Santos Plaza.

On March 11, 2011, the Concord community was invited to help fold paper cranes. But instead of folding 1,001, they folded more than 10,000 over the next few weeks, many with messages of hope written on them in the Japanese language kanji.

They've been stored while the Concord Ambassadors, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that maintains the Sister City relationship between Kitakami and Concord, has searched for a suitable site and means to display them.

"We looked for some sort of art project to show our friends and Sister City the outpouring of support," said Concord Ambassador and former Concord Mayor Michael A. Pastrick.

Last year the stars began to align. The owner of the Brenden Theatre agreed to donate space in the movie theater lobby for installation of the art project which will remain on display from March through the arrival and visit of the Kitakami delegation in October.

Artist Sean Olson, a guest teacher at Diablo Valley College, had the qualities necessary for the project.


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"He had done similar installations in Oakland," said Pastrick.

Talking with Olson and looking at the work he had done convinced us he understood what we were trying to accomplish, and he was commissioned, said Pastrick.

"My greatest interest in this project is that the people came together to contribute individually to create a symbolic gesture of support," said Olson, who has worked on the project daily for more than three months.

Olson moved to the Bay Area in 2002 from Washington state to attend the master of fine arts program at Mills College, and ended up staying. He has shown work at the Richmond Art Center and Southern Exposure. His short videos have screened at Lausanne Underground Film Festival, in Switzerland; and Mobile Archive, WYSPA Art Institute, in Gdansk, Poland. He currently works at the Oakland Museum.

He describes himself as "an object maker interested in what it means to find beauty in the mundane ... I explore the materials through process, gathering and altering; letting the physical and formal characteristics of the materials guide my decisions."

But when he received the 10,000 origami cranes, he realized he had a bit of a problem.

"It's the time frame," Olson said. "It's not the number of cranes, but the time frame. I don't generally make things in less than six months."

He received the plastic storage bins filled with cranes at the end of October and begin the artist's process of expression.

"There was some question of how big they were," Olson said. "There is one that at its widest is one-quarter inch to another that is one foot from wing tip to tip."

The 60-feet by 5-feet bannerlike piece is designed specifically for the spot where it will remain in the theater lobby through October. Although it has to be installed in sections because of its size and transportation needs, it will appear seamless.

The Concord Ambassadors have more events planned promoting the arrival of the Kitakami delegation, including a Chamber of Commerce mixer to be held at the Brenden Theatre at 5:30 p.m. April 17. The Ambassadors also will participate in the AAUW Art and Wine Walk starting at the Brenden Theatre portico at 1:30 p.m. May 10.

Anyone interested in hosting in their home one of the visitors from Kitakami during their stay in October should contact City Clerk Mary Rae Lehman at 925-671-3495. For more information, visit www.concordambassadors.org.

if you go
WHAT: Unveiling of sculpture made from community-folded origami cranes, and performance by Diablo Taiko Drummers
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Sunday,
March 9
WHERE: Brenden Theatres lobby, 1985 Willow Pass Road, Concord
COST: Free
INFORMATION: Visit www.concordambassadors.org or call Mary Rae Lehman at 925-671-3495