Sat, Mar 02, 2002 - Page 3 News List

American Cultural Center to change location

HISTORIC BUILDING AIT announced yesterday the center will move from its current location, listed as a historic site in 1992, to a new site in eastern Taipei

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A man walks past the American Cultural Center yesterday.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) announced yesterday it is moving its American Cultural Center from a historic Japanese structure at 54 Nanhai Rd to a new location in the business hub of eastern Taipei.

"It's a pity that the center will move out of this site so rich in culture," said Herbert Ma (馬漢寶), a former grand justice of the Judicial Yuan, at a function yesterday afternoon to mark the announcement of the old site's closing.

"I visited here quite frequently with other scholars since the very beginning of the center's operation," recalled Ma, a professor of law at National Taiwan University.

In announcing the cultural center would move to 2102, 333, Keelung Rd, Sec 1, AIT acting director Pamela Slutz recalled the significant events that took place at the site.

"Lovers of Taiwan art, for example, will never forget self-taught artist Hung Tong's (洪通) groundbreaking exhibit in 1976, nor the retrospective of his works after his death in 1987," Slutz said.

flood of visitors

"Visitors from far and near lingered long after closing time, and the center had to open another exit area to manage the foot traffic," a Free China Journal article said of the Hung exhibit.

Although other cultural venues in Taipei have gradually nudged the center out of the limelight in terms of art promotion, the site remains instrumental in sponsoring local artists' exhibits.

The site, built in 1931, also saw other headline events such as the visit by American modern dance legend Martha Graham in 1974.

Her dance demonstration in the building's auditorium was said to be highly instructional for the Cloud Gate Dance Theater (雲門舞集), a grassroots troupe founded by Lin Hwai-min (林懷民).

The building found its connection with the US when it was leased by the American Embassy to house the offices of the United States Information Service in 1957. The information service then established the Abraham Lincoln Center in the building to promote culture and arts in Taiwan.

After the US severed its diplomatic ties with Taiwan at the end of 1978, the AIT, established then to handle US-Taiwan relations, continued to lease the site and changed its name to the American Cultural Center in 1979.

The American Cultural Center once moved to a building on Fuhsing North Road in mid-January 1991 when the Taiwan Provincial Government, then the owner of the site, decided to terminate the lease to AIT.

saved from demolition

After the government classified the building as a historical site in 1992, thus saving it from demolition, the AIT managed to secure a new lease and moved back to the Nanhai Road site at the end of the same year.

In March 1993, the center began its service to the public. Its library, the American Resource Center, has integrated with the Foundation for Scholarly Exchange to provide information on US culture as well as advanced education in the US.

Even before the 1950s, the site that served as the former Taiwan Education Hall was favored by Japanese governors as a venue to promote cultural activities during the Japanese colonial rule.

blossoming art

In 1935, for example, the Tai-Yang Art Association (台陽協會) held its first exhibition at the site. Even after 1945, when the venue was turned into the Senate Hall, art exhibits still blossomed there.

Ma, the law professor, had concerns about the center moving, however.

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