The Ruan Yisan Heritage Foundation‘s Arts Harvest seeks to involve local people in the protection of traditional villages; to build common purpose with government, artists, local community, experts, and local gentries and to open rural villages to all people, bringing the local people back, and attracting new people from the cities.
Beginning in the summer of 2018, Ruan Yisan Heritage Foundation (the “Foundation”) started working in JiuLong village after receiving an invitation from the village leader. At the onset of the project, there were many historical houses and complete landscapes existing in the traditional village. The Foundation talked to both the local people and local government and found that 80% of the village’s inhabitants had moved to cities and only older people were left. The Foundation created the concept of an “Art Harvest” to stimulate the local village people and attract people back from the cities.
The Foundation persuaded the local village and government to participate in the project and devote resources to its completion. At the commencement, nearly 30 artists were invited to work in residence to create works which would contribute to the objective of cultural heritage and to the future development of the village. The project also received support from the local gentries, 100 local volunteers who participated in the preparation and opening, local craftsman that worked with artists to finish artworks, and over 10 families that moved back from cities to operate their old houses as hostels and restaurants.
As a result of the Art Harvest, people began to understand the importance and tradition of wooden and clay houses and took pride in their village and recognised the importance of protecting their own heritage. The opening of the village through the Art Harvest project attracted people and organisations to contribute volunteer hours and monetary investment. A once silent village with no children laughing and no hope has now been awoken by everyone who contributed to the Art Harvest project and people visiting from the outside. Nearly 5,000 people attended the opening day and the village enjoys between 50-100 visitors each day. Most importantly, the local people and gentries are collaborating on a plan for the future of the village now, a future which used to be non-existent due to abandonment.
The Art Harvest project successfully engaged the local communities to participate in the process of planning, organising and executing the project for the past year. The local government played an important active role in the project, in addition to supporting the project financially. The artists invited by the Foundation were the most vivid part of the project as their passion and hard work touched the local people and inspired them to realise the value of the traditional village and lifestyle. The Art Harvest made the village open to the outside world, attracting people from cities like Shanghai, Fuzhou, and Xiamen, and foreign countries like France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Because of the Art Harvest and other arts and heritage projects, people started valuing the past and talked about the future of traditional villages and historical buildings. Without this work, the predictable outcome is the disappearance of historical buildings and traditional villages. But now, thanks to engagement of the community through the Art Harvest, the village can expect another future, “Forever, for everyone”.