▲ The courtyard of Gandeurak Theater. Photo by Timothy Cushing
Last Saturday the Gandeurak Theater was flooded with foreigners who showed up to take in each others’ art. The occasion was the “I Love Jeju Art Festival,” an event put on by the Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) at the small, tucked away venue. It featured art in various forms from 33 people who currently live on the island. With the exception of one artist the art and music was the product of Jeju expatriates.
The Gandeurak Theatre, a small but accommodating space a few kilometers south of City Hall in Jeju City, had its courtyard filled with paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other forms of art for the event.
The theme was Jeju Island itself, and there were as many different interpretations of this theme as there were artists.
Stephen Krohn presented abstract patterned acrylics of scenes from around the island such as the colorful “Sunrise Hallasan.” This was accompanied by a computer slide show of some of his more realist Jeju watercolors. Britt Neufer took a broader approach and explored Korea’s division with spray-paint and glass. Troy MacLellan used the island itself for his art, putting together driftwood and pumice to create wine-bottle holders.
▲ Artwork by Britt Neufer and Troy MacLellan. Photo by Timothy Cushing
▲ Paintings by Stephen Krohn and Ito Yume. Photo by Timothy Cushing
Other works of art had seemingly less to do with the island. Ito Yume’s painting of a pig in bed in a vibrant and whimsical room seemed to explore more quirky and personal themes. Alex Nixon’s paintings took a monochromatic approach with intricate patterns and fable-like animals.
▲ Photo by Timothy Cushing
▲ Korean traditional paper art by Sarah Turrittin. Photo by Timothy Cushing
At the start of the festival, the crowd of around a hundred packed into the venue’s intimate theater to hear performances by musicians and poets. JDC General Director Boo Won Kyun addressed the crowd about JDC before the performances began and took the opportunity for a quick photo shoot.
Yuriy Pavlo Bilokonsky presented a long-form original poem to the accompaniment of acoustic guitar. This was followed by a ukulele and electric guitar duo called “Backpack Classic” who played laid-back beach folk in the vein of Jack Johnson. Harris Martin, Jenna Collie, and Andrew Elwood offered a richly harmonized heartfelt set that mixed two originals and a cover. After this, Wilkine Brutus shared a pensive poem inspired by the students that he teaches dealing with the theme of fatherhood.
After the performance, the crowd returned to the courtyard where JDC provided food and drink along with free mugs and T-shirts.
▲ Angela Jacobus photos and Miriah Lawrence paintings. Photo by Timothy Cushing
▲ Photo by Timothy Cushing
The event was organized in collaboration with Jeju Furey head Daniel Nabben who was instrumental in getting the artists together. “JDC wanted to do an art fest for foreigners. I told them, ‘I’ll just get the people,’” explained Nabben who initially was asked to spearhead the entire event. Nabben put out word via the Internet and received an overwhelming response from artists interested in helping.
“One of the biggest reasons people come out is because it’s for charity,” said Nabben when asked about the tremendous turnout.
In exchange for Nabben’s help, the JDC provided expensive and labor-intensive work to support a recent beach volleyball tournament put on by Jeju Furey. JDC rented a bulldozer for the job of leveling the sand, something that Nabben had been struggling with. “It was interesting, vindicating, and relieving, because in the end, even the JDC ran into problems getting all that setup and it caused them stress,” Nabben explained. Albert Oh also helped Nabben with a banking issue that he had struggled with. “It was a massive, massive, piece of progress,” said Nabben.
One of the main organizers from JDC was Albert Oh. When asked about JDC’s inspiration for the festival he said, “Our goal was to have a event that brings more deeper value for foreigners... that connects with natives in the island. There have been many international events in the island that have focused on cultures of different countries... Our goal was to focus on foreigners inside Jeju. Not about where they are from but more of who we are living together with. And we wanted to do in more open and in fun manner.”
Although the crowd consisted mostly of expatriates, Oh sees the event as a building block for things to come, saying that his organization will continue working toward its goal in years to follow. They are already planning to have similar events this time next year. JDC hopes this to be the beginning of better understanding between foreigners and locals and realizes that this ambition cannot be accomplished in one night. “I believe the door is open widely for next year,” says Oh.
For more about the Furey Foundation, please read this Jeju Weekly interview with Daniel Nabben from earlier this year. Full disclosure: Stephen Krohn is The Weekly's editorial illustrator. -- Ed.
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