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Impacting cities through the arts

A cultural center in their midst, making their place much better than before.



NATIONAL Taichung Center.

How art districts revitalize communities in the metropolis and serve as peaceful oases for the populace was the staple topic of discussions during the Session 5 of the recently held annual conference of the Association of Asia Pacific Performing Arts Centers at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila.

Nestor Jardin, former president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and former chairman of the board of trustees of De la Salle-College of Saint Benilde, related to the audience the beginnings of the CCP Complex and how various structures have sprouted through the years, as the CCP “brought vibrancy to the city through festivals, street dance competitions, parades and other mass gatherings.”

Jardin shared that the CCP has become “a home for artists, a place to converge, learn their crafts and grow professionally. As a center of entertainment, it presents or produces concerts, theater performances, film showings and events.”

The CCP Complex has also become “a place for people from nearby communities to converge, especially during weekends, for fun runs, physical activities and even graduation rites,” he said.
Addressing the needs of the global community, the CCP Complex serves as a venue for local and international events such as the recent ASEAN summit.

Jardin enumerated CCP plans including the rehabilitation of the CCP building; an open park with indigenous Philippine trees and plants with outdoor performance spaces; an Artists’ Center which will house the resident companies; Performing Arts Center with spaces for different performances; Museum for Philippine Arts; Center for Creative Industry; and new Film Archives.

A challenge being addressed is “the current difficulty of finding a Public-Private Partner with arts affinity that will be willing to finance the new buildings alongside the commercial development of the CCP Complex.”

The goal of the CCP, according to Jardin, “is to be financially self-sufficient and sustainable by developing its assets for commercial purposes and using the earnings to fund its artistic programs and activities.”

Nestor Jardin, former president of CCP and former chairman of the board of trustees of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.

Former military base

The one-year old National Kaohsing Center for the Arts, according to Gwen Hsin-yi Chang, was built on a portion of a former military base and the surrounding area it serves, its goals being to serve the public and to be part of the lifestyle of the people.

She showed slides of the various performance and exhibit venues in the large complex and the other facilities and amenities that make the 24/7 open park accessible and very useful to people
As to the impact of the center within its nearly one-year operation, she noted 85 percent ticket sales, more than 2.5 million park visitors, 10,000 recruits to the Weiwuying Friends Club, increase of 148 percent in foot traffic to the nearby metro station and strong local engagement in general public performances.

The new complex has been featured in the international press, including reviews from the New York Times, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and other media outlets.
She mentioned future management thrusts, namely, brand development, international collaborations, professional development and arts education.

CULTURAL Center of the Philippines. FREEDOMWALL.NET

Surrounded by high-rises

Joyce Chiou delivered her presentation on the National Taichung Theater, of which she is the Executive and Artistic Director, initially describing the architectural and interior design concept of the building, which features the oriental elements of light, water and air.

She related the history of the urban development surrounding the theatre complex as the area filled up with high-rises even before the complex was fully completed thus becoming the most expensive real estate development in the city.

As the wealthy people who lived in the luxurious condominiums noticed how the theater was gradually shaping up, they donated funds for its landscaping, giving them a good view.

Initially, the management made a study on the city and its people specifically the demographics, behavioral patterns and the types of programs people would watch.

The theater today continuously engages with the citizenry through volunteers, many of them retired teachers, salon owners and bakery owners who, according to Chiou, are happy to have “a cultural center in their midst, making their place much better than before.”

As a form of assistance, the Theater Invited eleven smaller performance venues in counties in Central Taiwan and helped them set up professional theater organizations that could provide NTT with shows and content. Part of the partnership was the training of artists and theatre practitioners and the development of audiences.

To increase viewership, the management conducted lectures in themed bookshops, charity clubs and other locations for interest groups and brought in students for theater exposure.

Joyce Chiou delivering her presentation on the National Taichung Theater.

Impact of development

When asked by Duncan Prescod, Chief Executive Officer of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, about the impact of development on their cities, the discussants replied differently.
Chiang explained, “Since we are new, we are still adjusting as most people still stereotype this area as a military base.”

Jardin shared, “The biggest impact of the CCP Complex is that it boosted and stimulated creativity among Filipinos. As to future developments, the impact will be on the expansion of programs and creation of jobs.”

Chiou pointed out, “Having the second national theatre in their city brought pride to the community, and everyone is proud to have it and is familiar with what’s going on in the theaters.”

As to the quantification of impacts, Jardin said, “We measure the impact through the number of attendees in our activities and the number of artists engaged, while geographics are indirect indicators of the impact to the community. Box office returns are indicators to the economic impact of cultural districts like the CCP Complex.

To prove value to people and institutions that invested in the creation of these centers, Chiou said, “This is evident in the feedback from the people, from patrons and partners. It is also shown in the interest to become partners with the Entity Club.”

Chang explained, “We do our reporting, we do fundraising and the people do not just want to give money but they prefer to be part of it. For value, we can see the increase in box office sales and by the jobs we create.”