The Seoul Art Space at Yeonhui:A writers' retreat in the heart of Seoul city
Writing a work of literature involves tremendous concentration, solitude and patience on the part of the writer. This is why it is important to find an environment congenial for the creative endeavor. For these reasons, artists in Korea have traditionally left the city for quieter places. But now they need not leave the city because 'The Seoul Foundation', an Art and Culture organization, has set up a project that provides space for Korea's artists in the city's numerous unoccupied buildings. The project's goal is to support artistic creativity; but, at the same time, it also wants the public to have closer contact with artists. This marriage between art and the community is expected to yield economic and cultural rewards.
One of the projects, The Yeon-hui Seoul Art Space, had its opening ceremony on November 5th. The National Institute's Sisa site has been converted into a writers' retreat in Yeon-hui. It is the first proper venue for literary artists in Seoul city. Until now, there were only two such places - the Toji Foundation's Centre of Culture in Wonju-si and Manhaemaeul in Inje-county, both of which are in the Gangwon-do province. But, these places are so far from the city that many artists are reluctant to go.
To remedy this, The Yeon-hui Seoul Art Space was established right in the heart of Seoul, in Yeon-hui-dong. The Yeon-hui Seoul Art Space is composed of twenty writing rooms, a multi-purpose hall, a media lab, a promenade and a stage that looks over a view of thick pine trees. Because the venue is so well-equipped, artists who want to take up residency will be in tough competition with each other. So far, 56 applicants have been accepted by public subscription, 19 of whom have now been awarded residency. Literary people from across the spectrum, poetry, novel writing, drama etc, have already moved into the site. It is hoped that the Art Space can be an ideal communal space for artists and readers both.
The selected artists will be selected twice a year. The period of residency depends on the artist; but he or she can choose to stay for one, three or six months. Eun Hee-kyung, one of the artists in residence said: "Until now, I wandered from place to place, country to country, in search of an environment conducive to writing a novel. But, this suffering comes now to an end."
There are also plans underway for an exchange program between domestic artists and foreign artists. For example, three writing rooms have been allocated for foreign authors.
At the opening ceremony, presided over by the Mayor of Seoul, Oh Se-hoon, many famous, and not so famous, artists were in attendance. The mayor commemorated the opening of Yeon-hui Seoul Art Space with these remarks: "The most important element in any culturally competitive society is its literature. The chance of offering to the public a way of experiencing the creative process at first-hand is a vital component in what we want to succeed here." The opening ceremony circled around the theme: 'Literature is Spreading.' Events as varied as novel and poetry readings, along with a musical concert and a book art exhibition, were held.
Son Hong-kyu, a novelist who graduated from the Department of Korean Language & Literature at Dongguk University was interviewed by the Post. "The Yeon-hui Seoul Art Space is within easier reach than other writers' retreats. Of course, outstanding work can be born in an isolated space. The novel, however, can be written anywhere. That is why Yeonhui-dong's central Seoul location is a good environment for writing." And he offered some advice to Dongguk University students: "On the surface, Yeon-hui Seoul Art Space looks a very wonderful place. This place, however, is a 'pain spot' for literary men in the Yeon-hui Seoul Art Space. The role of pain spot in our body is to feel and convey the pain. When it is applied to our society, it can be affluent, spiritually, by replacing pain spot with literature. Living in the confused society, students should make efforts to overcome 'the pain spot'."
The aim of The Yeon-hui Seoul Art Space is to encourage direct contact between local residents, readers and authors. To support this idea, there will be regular, advertised, poetry readings and literary symposiums. Through these various activities, it is hoped that the artists in residence and the greater community will regularly interact. Park Bum-shin, chief of the steering committee for The Yeon-hui Seoul Art Space said: "I want this site to be an incubator of literature in the coming years. Furthermore, this small place will be a major centre for creative development. For it is indeed our hope that the centre will help nurture our future Nobel Prize winners".
Bang Hye jung .
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