Chinese Artists Make a Pop-Up Exhibition in Fredonia

In the age of online connectivity, the global is the local. Having just hosted five Chinese artists from Shangyuan Art Museum residency program and helping them mount a one-evening-only pop–up exhibition in Fredonia New York, I am struck by how true  this is.

My connection with Shangyuan started about seven years ago when a friend of a friend introduced me to Cheng Xiaobei, a poet, photographer,  and  the mastermind behind Shangyuan Art Museum.  Shangyuan Art Museum is actually an art center with a residency program located in Shangyuan village in the Changping County of Beijing (an hour north of the city of Beijing).

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Cheng Xiaobei is director of Shangyuan Art Museum. She is shown here hosting lunch at a village restaurant in Shangyuan village. Although it is in Beijing province, Shangyuan is a rural village. It is a village where Chinese artist are beginning to take studios.

Main complex for meeting  and exhibition.

Shangyuan Art Museum, main building where presentations and exhibitions take place. Computers with internet are available here as well.

Cheng Xiaobei worked for years gathering an advisory board of established writers and artists together with the necessary funds to build a modern complex that would serve as an artists’ community.

Her dream: to create a self-sustaining creative space where artists could freely express themselves outside the view of governmental oversight. WIth the backing of well-established Chinese artist who maintain large private studios on the grounds, the art center was completed in 2007.  It’s an impressive place with exhibition halls, an open-air platform that looks out on the Yan Mountains , a video room, cooking facilities, writers’ apartments, and spartan artists’ studios which are given out free to Chinese and international artists in residence.

Slideshow with shots from my visit to Shangyuan art center in 2010.

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In order to connect  with the global art world, Cheng Xiaobei has sought opportunities  for artistic exchange with America.  She invites American artists and critics to Shangyuan as speakers or residents and she seeks opportunities to send Chinese resident artists to the United States.

Invitations from colleges and universities make it possible for Shangyuan artists to visit the US, and since I have know her Cheng Xiaobei has established connections with faculty and administration from the University of Minnesota (UMN), the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, the Minneapolis College of Design (MCAD),  and most recently SUNY-Fredonia. These relationships have been fruitful.   A group of Shanguan artist visited Minneapolis and nearby River Falls WI in 2009.  Faculty and administrators from UW-River Falls and MCAD traveled to Shangyuan in 2009.  I was invited there to share my curatorial work with Chinese artists in 2010 and traveled with a group from UMN including professors Diane Willow and Tom Rose, and a handful of graduate students.  We were hosted beautifully.  Since that time MFA graduate students from UMN and MCAD alumni have spent time in Shangyuan as resident artists.

This exchange remains vital. For the past three months Cheng Xiaobei and I have been planning a trip to America for a small group of Shangyuan residents with an invitation to present their work at SUNY-Fredonia.

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After spending a week in Manhattan artists Han Sanzhi, Luo Yao, Liu Jun , Liu Yang, and Hou Xiaoyi spent three days in Buffalo and Fredonia. Their single day on campus, October 24th, was extraordinarily rich for the campus community.  The artists arrived as instructed with works on paper and small paintings and quickly installed their work in the Reed Library Gallery.  Chinese faculty and grad students from across campus (from Math, English, History, Education, and Music) served as translators throughout the day, went to lunch with the artist, and accompanied them on a tour of the I. M. Pei designed Rockefeller Art Center on campus .  The day concluded with a delightful exhibition reception.

Hou Xiaoyi presented a demonstration of traditional Chinese drawing techniques  and Han Sahzhi  initiated the  painting of an abstract landscape on a long scroll  that the audience finished with his encouragement.  Art majors, community members, small children, and campus administrators all took brush in hand to partner in authorship of the scroll which took shape during the reception and is now housed in a Reed Library display case.

Organizing this pop-up with Chinese artists in Fredonia showed me that sometimes the shortest exhibitions can be the most action-packed.

Let me know if you would like to hear more about Shangyuan’s residency program.

I would be delighted to introduce you to Cheng  Xiaobei. 

About Patricia Briggs
Patricia Briggs is the director of galleries and curator of exhibitions at The Weeks Gallery at Jamestown Community College in New York State. She writes the blog "Scene Unseen: Viewing Notes" about visual art in her community.

One Response to Chinese Artists Make a Pop-Up Exhibition in Fredonia

  1. Peg Fisher says:

    The link to your slide show was not active so I could not access but the write up is wonderful. You are missed!

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