A non-contact community art project

1. Siheung-si and culture

Siheung-si, with a population of about 570 000, has vast land, ecological resources and an important natural heritage. However, the development of the city was restricted due to its designation as a greenbelt zone. Only small parts of the land were developed, and the whole area was divided into four living zones without a center.

Thus, the city tried to integrate a mixture of different development situations and values, which also caused regional disparity and cultural gaps. Siheung-si aims to be the only ‘eco-cultural city’ in the metropolitan area, and aims to connect people, neighborhoods, generations, nature, as well as the present and the future.

We aimed to develop a community art program where all generations could participate, encouraging cooperation and the achievement of goals through art, and without discrimination and social exclusion.

2. Project goals and implementation

2.1. Main goal and specific objectives

We aimed to bring isolated people together while developing a community art program where all generations could participate meaningfully and safely. We encouraged everyone to cooperate and achieve goals through art, without discrimination and social exclusion.

We wanted to expand the participation of local residents in artistic activities, restore a sense of community and rediscovery of the region through collaborative work, create employment by collaborating with local artists and further expand their role in the region, provide opportunities for individual artists to develop their artistic capacities, and establish a local customized culture and art service towards the post-Covid era.

2.2. Project development

‘A non-contact community art project’ worked on five projects from May 2020 until December 2021, and benefited 600 citizens. It must be noted that these collaborative artworks were permanently preserved as public artworks in local public buildings after the exhibitions or donated to the society.

The first project was a ‘mosaic art’ where 100 citizens coloured their birth flowers on a piece of the silk drawing board. They put each piece into one and completed the red lighthouse symbolizing Siheung.

The second worked around the concept of ‘paper craft’. 100 citizens created turtles, seagulls, and conchs (symbolic of Siheung) using waste paper and boxes from their homes. The paper craft works were included in a complex installation of art which combined video and sound. We embodied the mud flat, owned by Siheung City, and used eco-friendly materials.

The third special project “Hojobeol” (Hojo field), based on cultivating tidal mudflat as agricultural land for the poor in 1721, celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2021. In time for the coming of the Hojobeol Festival in October 2021, we developed the concept of large-scale ‘textile art’, in which 300 participants made a large artwork that symbolizes the meaning and richness of Siheung.

The fourth project was a ‘Collaborative Song’ with the participation of multicultural families. They created a song with lyrics about the stories of migrants living in Siheung, as well as the hopes for the future, based on the aim to embrace everyone.

The last project involved ‘co-writing’ to record the unprecedented pandemic situation from the perspective of 51 people who completed a book with their personal stories. The booklet was distributed throughout the country, including libraries and schools, as a guide for future generations towards the post-Covid era.

‘A non-contact community art project' worked on five projects from May 2020 until December 2021, and benefited 600 citizens.

3. Impacts

3.1. Direct impacts

The results have provided opportunities for citizens to enjoy culture, and promoted solidarity, a mindset change, and civic power. In addition, 8 arts groups and about 60 artists were provided with jobs, and it was an opportunity to show the crucial role of artists in the region.

The project forged links with the local community, expanded participation in culture and art without cultural blind spots, regained a sense of community, created jobs and strengthened creative capabilities, and established customized culture and arts services for local communities to prepare for the post-Covid era.

After these successful outcomes, the ‘VR Culture and Art Repository’ system and the non-contact cultural research institute ‘Siheung Arts Lab’ was established and is currently developing new projects. Also, we were awarded the grand prize of ‘cultural tolerance’ from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

3.2. Assessment

We conducted two surveys in October 2020 and January 2022. These included questions about satisfaction, project limitations, and suggestions for the sustainability of the project. 125 citizens participated on the first survey, and the levels of satisfaction rose above 96.6%. However, children and the elderly noted certain difficulties to go to the office to receive the kits and submit individual works by mail or in person. For the third project, information centers were arranged in regional cultural spaces to help citizens, also allowing artists’ residences.

87 citizens participated in the second survey. The possibility to participate responsibly and the rediscovery of the self, the neighbors and the city, as well as the existent human connections were highlighted. Thus, the project succeeded to encourage citizens’ spontaneity and restore the community spirit. Also, they continuously asked for the expansion of ‘A non-contact community art project’ into various arts.

3.3. Key factors

The three factors for the success of this project are: the aim for sustainability, recycling, and sense of community for  the region and city beyond the individual; the revision and supplementation to make a locally customized, consumer oriented process through continuous monitoring and surveys; and citizen satisfaction, which has increased by connecting local cultural spaces with artists, as well as assuring convenience and citizens’ safety during the entire process.

3.4. Continuity

Through ‘A non-contact community art project’, we established a cultural governance model in which citizens-artists administration work together to culturally solve local problems. It has 267 citizens, 112 artists, and 8 working groups. We share local issues through a roundtable once a month, run the ‘Siheung Arts-LAB’, and continuously develop and implement new projects.

This year, we secured a budget of $68,000. By expanding participation in cultural arts programs without cultural blind spots and regaining a sense of community, we will ensure that everyone can enjoy equal cultural values and rights.  Eventually, we believe that a ‘cultural vaccine’ will be able to solve future difficulties because we successfully managed to overcome the COVID-19 situation.

The project forget links with the local community, expanded participation, regained a sense of community, created jobs, strengthened creative capabilities, and established culture and arts services for local communities towards the post-Covid era.

4. Further information

Siheung-si was a candidate for the fifth “UCLG – Mexico City – Culture 21” International Award (February – June 2022). The jury for the award drew up its final report in September 2022, and requested that the Committee on Culture promote this project as one of the good practices to be implemented through Agenda 21 for culture.

This article was written by Dongkyu Lee, Director of the eco-cultural city office, Siheung-si, Gyeonggi-do / Republic of Korea.

Contact: knua1999 (at) korea.kr

Website: www.siheung.go.kr

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