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One step closer to Art
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승인 2010.03.30  18:11:22
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▲ Yeon Gallery, above, has made art more approachable to the general public and children by offering free classes, such as that below where students can make their own cloisonné enameled artworks. Photos courtesy Yeon Gallery

Most people on Jeju would prefer to spend their precious weekend afternoons on a sunny beach rather than being cloistered indoors in an art gallery. Often, when one entertains the idea of going to a gallery, two things get in the way. There is the question of attire, as people think that casual attire will not allow them access into high-brow galleries - which is true to a certain extent - but there is also the concern of, “What do I know about art anyway?” So, for some, just going to a gallery seems too daunting.

But that needn’t be the case any longer. Yeon Gallery, which opened on Oct. 31, 2008, in Ido 2-dong is dispelling the idea that art is difficult or unapproachable. The deconstruction process starts with demystifying the aura around art by bringing it down to basics. The gallery does showcase pieces by contemporary professional artists, including gallery director, Kang Myeong Soon, who is known for her signature lotus paintings. At the same time, however, it has been offering appealing and down-to-earth art outreach programs for the public. Last year, from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30, the gallery hosted the 2009 Artreach Program sponsored by the Jeju Culture and Arts Education Support Center. The program included classes on dyeing, ceramics, cloisonné and painting. These programs were special in that they were offered to underprivileged as well as physically challenged children.

This month, I was privileged to participate in a free cloisonné craft class on March 13. Although initially limited to the first 20 people that signed up, there was such a huge demand that the gallery allowed 10 more people in, and I was one of those.

When asked the reasons for such free programs, Song Jung Eun, the gallery curator cum general manager, said, “Most Jeju people seem to consider art galleries to be something that they find difficult to approach. We wanted to create a place where people could come, feel comfortable enough to make some noise, and even play. We also wanted to open this opportunity to children. Children are our future and they will be the ones who will come again to appreciate these art forms as something that is part of their lives and not something that is out there.”

She said the class was a pilot program and more would be planned if there was sufficient response. Currently, one more free class is planned for late in March, after which the classes will continue to be taught for free, but students will be charged about 5,000 to 10,000 won for the art materials.

The hands-on experience lasted about three hours and was divided into two parts, led by artists Ko Nan Young and Choi Young Hee. Both are recognized artists in their own rights, and Ko first exhibited her unique combination of metalwork and cloisonné art in 2007. Choi designed the well-known Jeju Pony cell phone accessory. Both have been participating in the Yeon Gallery initiative since last year and Ko said it had been her first such opportunity to interact with the public. Choi works with recycled materials and teaches painting. Both were eager and enthusiastic about the project.

From the reaction of the people who took part in the Saturday class, the effort seems to be a runaway success. The curator and the artists were kept busy answering questions about current programs as well as those planned for the future. I, for one, came away with a healthy respect for artists and a feeling of epiphany with two pieces of self-made art - a cloisonné hand-painted necklace, and a hand-stitched bona fide Jeju Pony cell phone accessory. If you have ever thought about letting art into your life, Yeon Gallery can give you your chance.

Yeon Gallery
680-4 Ido 2-dong
Jeju City
Tel: 064-757-4477

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