1. Gimhae and culture
Gimhae City is the 15th largest city in the country with a population of 540,000 located in southeastern Gyeongsangnamdo, South Korea. It is a cultural city with many cultural and artistic facilities, museums and libraries such as Gimhae Arts and Sports Center, Clayarch Gimhae Museum and West Gimhae Culture Center. Among active artists in Gimhae, 980 artists have careers in the arts, thus proving their artistic activities through their active professions, while there are also 15 professional art corporations. However, for the artist support projects that existed, the limited financial resources were divided through annual screening, so such programs have not led to constant support for artists.
In this context, Bulgasari Project aims at supporting the creation, production, and artistic activities of performing arts organizations and artists in Gimhae. Bulgasari is the name of an ever-growing imaginary animal that appears in a legend, and it is also a homonym for a starfish in Korean, so the project logo is taken from a starfish shape.
The project became a ray of hope during the COVID-19 era and for support and enjoyment altogether. The foundation provides space, professional manpower, expenses and overall artistic activities for selected artists’ creation, and serves as a bridge of mutual growth for artists in order to think about motivation for sustainable growth, and to provide citizens with quality local performing arts.
Gimhae cultural foundation's 'Bulgasari project' started for the first time in Korea as a supporting project based on sincere respect towards artists in Gimhae.
2. Project goals and implementation
2.1. Main goal and specific objectives
The project began with the necessity of establishing a new support system that fits the circumstances of Gimhae city and is different from the policy support focused on the whole country and metropolitan cities. The Bulgasary Project aims to support the growth of local artists and lay the foundation for their shared growth, not through competition between local artists but through a mutually beneficial and shared experience.
2.2. Project development
Gimhae’s unique support program is realizing a roadmap for creative artistic activities and artist growth through the following process: transformation from a place for managers to a place for artists and citizens, from one-time support to cumulative and sustainable support, from a competition structure to an experiential structure, from a management structure to a support structure, and from provisional support to suggesting support.
Three ways of receiving support have been created: (a) providing venues for artistic and creative activities, (b) introducing human resources so that staff and professional producers can help artists directly, and (c) offering actual expenses that are needed for creative jobs.
Main actions carried out include:
- Providing venues: all space of concert halls and practice rooms are open and available in three stages and space for arts of Gimhae Arts and Sports Center (Maru Hall, Nuri Hall) and West Gimhae Culture Center (Hani Hall) managed by Gimhae Cultural Foundation;
- Introducing human resources: consultation and support for performance planning and professional producers from the staff of the Gimhae Cultural Foundation and professional stage management and planning advice;
- Offering actual expenses: calculate and provide support for actual expenses insufficient for creative jobs through deep consultation with participating artists.
Phases of the project are: Holding meetings and forums for communication with artists ››› Designing a project model that reflects the opinions of artists ››› Establishing an operating system to implement improvements ››› Sharing details of the project’s operation through project information sessions for artists and citizens.
The programs ‘Gimhae Art Market Attraction’ and ‘Regional and International Exchange Program’ are some of the initiatives designed to secure possibility and competitiveness. Ultimately, independent and continuous activities that fit each phase and goal can be carried out.
The conditions of Gimhae artists and their artistic activities have been checked, and governance between local artists, experts, and the Gimhae cultural foundations has been established in order to build and implement the support system.
3.1. Direct impacts
The Bulgasari Project implemented for the first time this year in Korea is currently ongoing. The following are the desired impacts:
- Effects on the local government: Mutual growth for both the arts and artists in Gimhae, in addition to highquality performing arts for citizens in the region.
- Effects on the city or stakeholders involved in the cultural sector: Performances and artists are selected through consultations, instead of competitions, that are held on a first-come, first-served basis for evaluation. Continuous motivation for the growth for artists without categorizing ‘patrons’ and ‘recipients’ under the name of ‘support’.
In this project, there are three ways to support: providing venues for artistic and creative activities, introducing human resources so that staff and professional producers can help artists directly, and offering actual expenses that are needed for creative jobs. Evaluation will be done by the number of total teams supported, participating artists, actual supporting expenses, citizen attendance, newly created programs and satisfaction surveys for both local artists and citizens. However, we cannot tell the result at the moment as this project has started this year and has not finished yet.
3.3. Key factors
The Bulgasari Project started with a contemplation about the most effective method to allow Gimhae Cultural Foundation to walk with artists. The goal of the Project is not to provide simple support for artists but to establish a communicative support system and solid foundation that enable us to overcome regional limitations and to cooperate together continuously for shared growth. The most important part in this process is that the local culture and art ecosystem is changed so that a stable one can be created when local residents and citizens, who remain simply as “enjoying participants” of culture and art, are changed into “main agents” of culture, by participating in art and culture activities voluntarily and actively.
The basis of this Project is ‘regional culture promotion’, so adequate budget support from the local government is needed to ensure its stable budget management. The project result of 2022 will be shared with artists and participating citizens and plans and a support system for the second (next) year that fit each phase and goal will be set up by using established governance.
- June 2022 – Result Announcement and a forum on results and challenges of the Project.
- July 2022 – Establishment of 2023 plans and med-term plans by the result of the forum.
- August 2022 – Second forum.
- October 2022 – Project information session for 2023.
Impacts on the city/region and its residents include awareness of gender sensitivity and environmental ecology, and a broader horizon of recognition towards issues facing artistic approaches and social values.
4. Further information
Gimhae 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 Son Eun-kyung, Officer in charge of international exchange, Gimhae, Gyeongsangnamdo, Republic of Korea.
Contact: junenice (at) korea.kr