Dragon School Is Helping Youth Bring Art to the Streets of Oakland

Luqman Lin is a graffiti artist and the founder of Dragon School in Oakland, California.
Luqman Lin is a graffiti artist and the founder of Dragon School in Oakland, California. | © Dragon School / Luqman Lin
Photo of Alex Temblador
25 June 2018

Walk through the streets of Oakland’s Chinatown and you’ll notice a lot of murals of dragons. They change from time to time, but what remains the same is that their colorful and languid bodies undulate along the brick walls of grocery stores, restaurants, and businesses. Tourists and locals stop to take pictures and note the author tag: Dragon School. While the Dragon School murals are captivating, the story behind the tag is even more interesting.

Street artist Luqman Lin, also known as Doctor Dragon, started spray painting golden dragons in Oakland’s Chinatown in 2015. While he did so without permission at that time, things soon changed for Doctor Dragon. In the same year, Lin started teaching local kids how to create graffiti and street murals, and very quickly and organically, Dragon School formed.

Today, Dragon School is a non-profit that pairs established graffiti artists and graphic designers with kids who are anywhere between the ages of 5 and 18 years old, as well as some adults, all of whom are interested in learning how to graffiti. Dragon School pieces may have first appeared in Chinatown, but over the years, the murals have continued well beyond this limit.

Oakland Chinatown is home to an array of dragon-themed murals created by Dragon School. | © Dragon School

Every mural with the Dragon School tag has been done with permission from the business or building on which the art is featured, and all Dragon School artists work diligently to never ruin or graffiti over another artists’ work.

So, why so many dragons? In Chinese mythology, the dragon is a very powerful figure meant to bring good luck. A business that works with the Dragon School will benefit in multiple ways. Not only will they be connecting with a local community project that benefits young artists, but they could effectively be bringing good luck to their business. And while the school may be best known for their dragon murals, they have branched out with their artistic subjects.

Murals created by Dragon School feature a variety of subjects, from dragons to people and local geographical elements. | © Dragon School / KAL

The luck from the Dragon School dragons seems to be working. With the help of Dragon School and the murals they create, the city has seen more foot traffic through Oakland’s Chinatown, an area rich in history that was once overlooked by tourists and locals but is now hot on their radar. The dragons and Dragon School bring tourists with their cell phones and selfie sticks in hand, and after all that picture taking, many tourists shop around or stop for something to eat, helping the community to thrive economically.

So it seems the Dragon School dragons are doing their job. They’re giving young artists in Oakland a space to create, businesses an enticing marketing incentive, and the community as a whole a brand-new opportunity for growth and connection.

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