From my research, I find that the preservation of historical residential neighborhood culture is a common problem. The solutions substantially emphasize the importance of civic engagement. Specifically, I notice how participatory art empowers public participation in community construction in Little Tokyo, Los Angelos.
Founded around the beginning of the 20th century, Little Tokyo is the most populous Japanese American cultural center in Southern California. According to Jonathan Jae-an Crisman, Little Tokyo has faced issues rising from commercialization, urban renewal, and pressures of gentrification, which is similar to Sangfang Qixiang. In his work, he points out how “creative placemaking,” multidimensional participation in community construction around art and culture, functions in such conditions (Crisman 51). Creative placemaking requires the application of participatory art, which, separated from high-end fine arts such as oil painting or sculpture, requires civic engagement. For example, according to Hyperallergic, four artists, who dabble from visual arts to performance and even film-making, have been holding interactive community art events and workshops, which highlight the place’s existing cultural assets, such as calligraphy. Such a participatory art form breaks the border between spectators and creators, allowing people to participate in the traditional culture.
This perspective leads me to rethink the definition of Sangfang Qixiang’s community culture, which now I believe means not only residents themselves but also the immaterial cultural heritage or local art that they create. Currently, there are (expensive) cultural industries, such as horn comb, fish ball, and sugar painting, that stand for Fuzhou’s regional culture. I believe that government regulations and assistance on these stores to encourage more artist-spectator interactions will benefit both the visitor experience and cultural atmosphere.
Furthermore, aside from artist-spectator interactions, there are also healthy interactions between the artists as they “provide frank and insightful critique to further push the work and community” (124). Transferring to Sangfang Qixiang’s case, I believe that government could also guide communications between industries that produce similar cultural objects, which weakens the business competition between artists and promotes cultural development. In practice, it could be an apprenticeship, a friendly match, etc.
However, above all, I suggest that the government could provide welfare or award for those who agree to move back. After all, local art only exists when the residents exist. Then, if the government could investigate the residents on the even more specific Sangfang Qixiang art, I believe it will increase diversity within the integrated communal culture.
Ahn, Abe. “Artists Are Addressing the Tide of Gentrification in LA’s Little Tokyo.” Hyperallergic, 27 July 2018, https://hyperallergic.com/453166/artists-are-addressing-the-tide-of-gentrification-in-las-little-tokyo.
Crisman, Jonathan Jae-an. Civic expression in Little Tokyo: how art and culture empower communities and transform public participation. 2019. University of Southern California, Ph.D. dissertation. University of Southern California Digital Library, http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll89/id/181802