Titled “Cultural and Creative Hubs for Creators” a talk on a Taipei experience focuses largely on the success of the SongShan Cultural and Creative Park. Jasmine Chou, Executive Director of the 66,000 sq. ft. multifunctional park, is the latest guest speaker for the 12th Tea Philo session. Sharing their extensive practice, the 2-hour event took place at the Purple Cane Tea Square, Shaw Parade Kuala Lumpur.
Initially constructed under the Japanese occupation in 1937 as a tobacco factory, the park was named Matsuyama Tobacco Plant of the Monopoly Bureau. For more efficient reuse of space, in 2011 the former factory was turned into a creative park by its current name to provide venues for diverse cultural and creative exhibitions and performances.
Chou opened her talk by setting a touristic reference to her scenery-laden slides.
“It is the young people who started it, they went to old buildings and use it to make interesting things happen.
“(Instead of) bringing friends who are visiting from outside the city to shopping malls, nowadays people would bring their friends to historical and creative spaces.
Unique to SongShan is that its bottom-up approach is key in its success. Backed by Taiwan’s extensive manufacturing, technology background and richness in cultural history awareness, these elements have built a solid foundation for Taipei’s creative talent. This sparks interest in other places to form their own “hub” around the country. Most cultural and creative park in Taiwan have specific policy objectives. For urban planning and policy makers, it is a creative landmark and industrial base. For the creators, it is a place to express imagination. Business models vary in other districts in Taiwan. From NGO undertaking government-commissioned project to informal neighborhood shop network.
What it lacks in intimacy due to a large number of attendance, it gains in persistent inquiries from the audience on how much financial backing it gathered from local government, based on the overwhelming information pertaining programming, incubation, and video presentation to testify to the effectiveness of SongShan. One of their bigger revenue accumulation comes in a form of space-for-hire business model, a self-sustaining strategy to up-root their dependency from state funding. To date, SongShan’s comprehensive park and buildings are curated to name a few: the Taiwan Design Museum, Song Yan Creative Lab for incubation and experimentation, and the Red Dot Design Museum Taipei—proprietor of the crucial international design competitions, the Red Dot Design Award. These along with their cafes and library make up the big creative landscape of the old factory.
Due to its Ramadan evening timing, member of the audience are predominantly made up of Chinese Malaysian arts and culture practitioners. Active response garnered during the Q&A session, reflected on positive local aspirations to have a similar concept of a creative hub—if not of its massive scale, tapping on its massive vision is all the more important.
Wong, 52, a music educator expressed post-session that,
“(Among music educators) they don’t quite encourage students to go to each other centres’ recitals and showcases, for fear that other centres might entice and snatch their students to learn at those places.
Wong who is married to her music educator husband adds,
“I think this is bogus. We need to find a solution to this unity issue if we want to come together like the Taiwanese.