The festival is here at last!
After over a month in Taiwan, the first two days of the Toucheng Art Festival have finally arrived, and boy was it a whirlwind. We stayed up late the night before, helping Yulun and Ren-Hong get everything arranged in time for the festivities. Right up until the wire, we were arranging and rearranging and adjusting and trimming and testing to make sure everything went off without a hitch. Some of the Goldfish House’s original furnishings and vintage décor were pulled out of storage and set up beside the new collections of local art. The place has never looked so inviting!
Things kicked off bright and early on a sweltering Saturday morning, with lots of volunteers, visitors, artists, and even press! We milled about the house for a bit, enjoying the exhibits, meeting curious locals and people who have been involved with the festival since day one. We even got the chance to talk with a man who comes from Toucheng, but who lives and does business out of our hometown, Los Angeles! He’s been a major supporter of the festival’s mission from the beginning, and was as excited as any of us to see it succeed.
The sessions began with an art exhibit by someone we’ve been hearing a lot about since we arrived in Toucheng, Mr. Martin! Born and raised in Toucheng, Mr. Martin (sometimes known as Pencil Martin, for his incredible sketches) worked as a professional animator in China for years, before returning to his hometown. His paintings of the Toucheng landscape pulled from both the present day and his childhood memories line the walls of the Goldfish House this week, and, with a group of a dozen or so attendees in tow, he led us around Toucheng to some of the places his paintings are based on.
His favorite subjects tend to be quiet corners, hidden alleys that the average person might not think twice about, but that hold a powerful, peaceful kind of beauty when looked at more closely. He led us past a few of his favorite areas to paint and gave us plenty of local history along the way, teaching us about ancient rivers and decades-old New Year’s traditions and other bits of Toucheng’s past you might never know if you were just passing through. The tour was all in Chinese, of course, and a bit more complicated than our limited language skills could decipher, but with the help of a festival volunteer and new friend, Zong-yun, we were able to pick up a fair amount about this town we’re calling home!
Later that evening, we all headed over to the Mazu Temple down the street (which you may remember from the ceremony in our last post) for a multi-cultural concert of some of the best musicians in Toucheng! Pipi’s husband and accomplished pianist Musa took the stage, along with a musician from Italy named Giovanni, and an incredible singer from right here in Toucheng, Yang Su-Hao.
It was an incredible evening of song and fun and the temple was absolutely packed. Some people even came out from Taipei and Yilan City for the concert! The perfect end to an explosive first day, for sure.
The next day was just as busy, but at least the workshops helped us unwind! Giovanni, the musician from the night before, was our guide for an energy healing and meditation workshop first thing in the morning. Zong-yun jumped in again to help translate things for us, but the topics were pretty complex, even if he’d been speaking English! We were able to follow along well enough to pick up the most important things though, and the workshop’s focus on inner peace was a pleasant change of pace from the excitement of the previous day.
The next workshop was all about healing mind, body, and spirit with the power of flowers. Our teacher, an illustrator named Sylvia, taught us how to draw mandalas, how different types of flowers could offer insight to our own hearts and minds, and even how to make drinkable flower essences. We were all given flashcards she had illustrated with different flowers and their meanings, and we spent about an hour designing and drawing out mandalas based on her illustrations. Some people managed to create some really incredible works of art by the end! Maybe we have a few more artists for next year’s festival in our midst…
In between all that, the two of us got to enjoy the art on display, and meet with people who had contributed to or traveled out to experience the festival. Our American friends we met on the bus last week even stopped by to check out the art and say hi before heading back to the States!
It was incredible seeing so many weeks and months of Yulun and Ren-Hong’s hard work coming to fruition this weekend, and we’re excited to see lots more this coming weekend! We’re gearing up for part two now, which we expect to be just as hectic and perhaps even more inspiring than the first. We’ve learned so much and met so many people in just a few days, if every weekend was like the one we just had, you might be hard pressed to ever get us to leave Taiwan!