Nhandan Newspaper – Creative spaces bring the arts closer to the public

Though established in the last decade, it wasn’t until the last few years that the development of arts venues and creative spaces has become a trend.

Hanoi now has nearly 30 creative spaces, Ho Chi Minh has around 10 addresses of the kind, and others are scattered in Hai Phong, Hue and Da Nang.

The spaces are located inside of trade centres, exhibition houses, offices, libraries or cafes. They are places to welcome new initiatives, to hold talks and discussions among those working in the field of culture or arts lovers, and to provide training and guidance on culture and the arts.

In their first stage, such contemporary arts spaces were funded by, and dependent on, foreign cultural institutions such as L’Espace, the Goethe Institut, the British Council and the Ford Foundation.

However, the financial support from the funds are limited and affected by changes in the market economy. That pushes the spaces’ founders to figure out measures to mobilise resources from the public in order to realise their projects and to host their arts activities independently.

Many of them have found encouraging success in becoming independent, including the Hang Da Galleria, which successfully organised the first Hanoi Arts Fair at the end of 2014. On that day, artists and art groups left their workshops and brought their artworks to advertise them to visitors and made trade deals by themselves.

Hang Da Galleria was also the sponsor location of the contemporary Tet Art Fair in February 2015 – an independent idea developed by two young organisers, Trinh Minh Tien, an artist from the Real Art Group, and Doan Phuong Lien, a volunteer at Nha San Collective.

As an arts space opened inside a modern shopping mall in 2011 amidst the busy Old Quarter on the ground-floor of the old Hang Da market, Hang Da Galleria has established itself as an art works showroom, as well as a place for artists, visitors and city dwellers who are in need of paintings, sculptures and handicraft products across all regions of the country. Arts events hosted by the centre have invited visitors to experiences unique cultural activities while helping organisers sell their products and advertise their brands to customers.

In addition to hosting exhibitions and providing a location for trade fairs, Hang Da Galleria’s management board also takes part in charity activities such as an annual fundraiser for ethnic minority children in mountainous region, and auctioning paintings to raise school fees for poor students.

Another role model is Hanoi Creative City, recently unveiled at No.1 Luong Yen street, Bach Dang ward, Hai Ba Trung district. Designed as a creative hub, a popular trend in countries with robust development of contemporary arts, Hanoi Creative City provides adequate area for retail and service shops, restaurants, bars, clubs, galleries, museums, parks, private businesses, and a music venue.

It is a place where artists can display and sell their products while the public can read, listen, watch and shop. Although some items of the complex have not yet been finished, Hanoi Creative City has been established as a professional arts space linking businesses, artists, and the public.

There are also many other venues in Hanoi succeeding in attracting visitors while advertising Vietnamese contemporary arts, including Heritage Space in Hanoi, which often hosts seminars and announcement ceremonies of books and classic music concerts; Work Room Four, which provides training classes on fashion design, drawing, and computer graphics; Manzi, which draws much interests from foreigners thanks to its exhibitions, film screenings, and music concerts; and the Yard, where an open-air market is held every weekend to sell hand-made clothes and interior products.

Meanwhile, Ho Chi Minh City sees the rising of 3A Station, a vibrant arts rendezvous space among contemporary art lovers; Saigon Co-working, a creation and innovation center providing ready-to-use solutions for freelancers, startups and entrepreneurs; and Saigon Outcast, an alternative venue, with a skateboard ramp, a large open space and murals and graffiti covering the walls.

According to journalist Truong Uyen Ly, a consultant of the British Council-launched project on creative hubs in Vietnam, the future of creative hubs in particular, and the development of culture industry in Vietnam in general, is long-term and full of potential. Creative activists have found their own ways to create a large and connected community.

German Dr. Michael Waibel, who recently won the Bui Xuan Phai – For the Love of Hanoi Awards, believes that Vietnam is in the first phase of building creative spaces. Although difficulties, challenges and failure are unavoidable, the important thing is that a creative community was established and there are pioneers in the work.

At a workshop on creative hubs and their potential contributions to culture and urban development in Vietnam, held this September, participating experts agreed that creative hubs will be a highlight of many cities’ appearance in the near future. Many foreign artists and collectors visit the places to learn more about Vietnamese contemporary arts.

The creative hubs, undoubtedly, are established as a venue not only to display and introduce the latest art works, but also to host lessons, workshops, seminars, performances, exchanges and interactive activities providing creative spaces for people.

A hip-hop dance at Hanoi Creative City (Photo: Hanoi Creative City)

Visitors enjoy Hoi An chicken rice at a food installation of artist Bui Cong Khanh at Manzi Art Space (Photo: Mazi)

Shopping at a 3A Station’s Bazaar (Photo: 3A Station)

A live music performance at Saigon Outcast (Photo: Saigon Outcast)

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