Wed, May 27, 2015 - Page 12 News List

When artists and farmers meet

Lovely Taiwan Foundation continues its work of reviving the country’s towns and villages by bringing an artistic vibe to the farming village of Chihshang

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

Lovely Taiwan Foundation has been organizing an annual autumn harvest concert in Chihshang since 2009.

Photo courtesy of Lovely Taiwan Foundation

Rice, biandang (boxed meal, 便當) and, more recently, the Takeshi Kaneshiro (金城武) tree are usually what come to mind when one thinks of Taitung County’s Chihshang Township (池上). But if a plan to attract artists goes well, several years from now, the idyllic farming village will come to be known as an artist commune where painters, musicians, writers and other creative types live in harmony with their rural neighbors amid vast rice fields.

THE PROJECT

The Lovely Taiwan Foundation (台灣好基金會), founded in 2009 to revive the country’s small towns and villages, officially launched the artist-in-residence program in Chihshang earlier this month. The organization has been doing work in Chihshang for the past six years, most notably the annual autumn harvest concert featuring performances by top-notch artists such as Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集), U-Theater group (優人神鼓) and A-Mei (張惠妹).

Many of Chihshang’s houses have long been vacant due to residents moving to bigger cities in search of a better life. Two such farmhouses have been renovated as lodging for artists. And an old dormitory at Chihshang Junior High School (池上國中) is now the home and studio of literary icon and painter Chiang Hsun (蔣勳), the project’s chief adviser and first artist-in-residence.

Chiang says he has been painting since the day he arrived six months ago.

“I feel right at home. Living here [reminds me of] many of my childhood memories,” he says. “Every day, I observe the ever-changing light and colors of the rice field. When I was little, it was a sight I saw all the time and I didn’t think much of it. Now I want to capture Chihshang’s kaleidoscope of light and colors.”

Chiang adds that the residency could help form a much-needed connection between cities and the countryside.

“City people always dream of a pastoral lifestyle. But I think we need both, that is, a balance between the two. In Taiwan, the two have stopped communicating with each other so that it feels they are both lacking something,” he says.

Ko Wen-chang (柯文昌), Lovely Taiwan Foundation’s chairman, says connecting the two requires years of planning and working with locals to meet their needs. Many towns and villages in Taiwan, including his hometown of Chaojhou, Pingtung County, are in decline — their people gone, along with the traditional culture.

“There is not enough happiness there,” Ko says. “There are a few pretty, new buildings popping up in town, but they have nothing to do with [the residents’] past and future. Hopefully we can find a way to connect a town’s past, present and future.”

As a venture capital mogul and chairman of the WK Technology Fund (普訊創業投資), Ko has urged his entrepreneur friends to invest in his endeavor. Fuh Hwa Securities Investment Trust (復華投信) has contributed funds to the Chihshang project.

The residency program is currently in its experimental phase, available only to those invited by Chiang and the foundation. Those on the invitation list include metal artist Tseng Yung-ling (曾永玲), Paris-based Taiwanese painter Xavier Wei (魏禎宏), choreographer Lu Han-ping (魯漢平) and Lin Chuan-chu (林銓居), a painter and installation artist. After a year of trial and error, the program will be open to application next year, Ko says.

The length of the residency will be three months — artists are not simply invited to work and live in Chihshang, but are expected to immerse themselves in the local culture and rural life as well as forming a close connection with villagers.

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