In August, we visited the brand new Qingyun International Art Center on the southern outskirts of Beijing, to learn about their expansive plans and mission to combine traditional culture and heritage with contemporary art and design. We spoke with residency coordinator Takeo Ni 倪岛岛:

  • CR: When did this idea for the Qingyun Art Centre come about?
  • TN: Professor Liu Liyu started thinking about it long ago. She was teaching glass art at Tsinghua. Her sister, Liu Liyun, a sculptor and ceramicist, joined her in setting up the arts centre, which opened officially with an exhibition at the end of 2015.

  • CR: What did these buildings used to be?

TN: They were designed to be a resort, but the resort never opened.

  • CR: When did you host your first resident?
  • TN: Japanese ceramist Ogiso Norihiko arrived in March 2016, and our second artist, Paul Beumer, will arrive on Friday. Michael Leung is here for a few days checking out the facilities and farmland.

  • CR: How many people work at the arts centre?
  • TN: We have several farmers who grow the vegetables, 2 ayis, Cheng Shi, the studio manger for the glass workshop (although he’s leaving soon to teach in Xi’An). Liyun and Liyu come by once a week, and we’re also looking to hire some more people to work as facilities managers. 

  • CR: What facilities do you have on site?
  • TN: We have studios for ceramics as well as three kilns (gas, wood, electric). We also have specialized glass facilities and a jewellery design studio, as well as instrument makers guqin (traditional Chinese zypher). We also run a  gallery in Shanghai, the BA art centre in Pudong in the Lujiazui district.

  • Qingyun's ceramics studio

  • CR: What do you provide the artists?
  • TN: Artists need to cover their own international travel costs, but once they arrive, we provide housing, studio space, and three meals a day made with the vegetables we grow here. 

  • CR: What is your background?
  • TN: I’m from Chongqing, and studied ink painting in Chengdu. I graduated in 2012 and worked in Chengdu as an illustrator for a Taiwanese organic food company. In 2014, I returned to Chongqing where I worked as a curator at Organhaus alongside Yangshu and Ni Kun. I worked with over 50 of the resident artists there, and got familiar with running a residency program. Later, I got an offer to work for a gallery in 798, but the work didn’t suit me.

  • CR: Do you prefer to work directly with artists?
  • TN: Of course! Artists don't go to galleries. I'm really interested the story behind the work.

  • CR: When did you start working at Qingyun, and how do you like it so far?
  • TN: I started in May 2016.  It's nice to be in the countryside, close to nature. The gentle pace of life is very relaxing.

  • CR: What’s the area like here?
  • TN: We’re out in Daxing district, which is where the new Beijing airport design by Zara Hadid is going to open. Right now, it’s a lot of farm land! 

Tomatoes growing in Qingyun's greenhouse

  • CR: How often do you go into the city?
  • TN: Depends on my mood. I'm not a city person though, before moving to Beijing I was thinking of going to work on an organic farm in New Zealand or Australia.

  • CR: How do you select the artists for the residency?
  • TN: Right now, I’ve been reaching out to artists through recommendations, or that I met at Organhaus, like Michael. I also by browsing for artists on Instagram, which is how I became aware of Paul's work. We just set up an application form for our open call as well, and will review proposals on an ongoing basis.

Paul Beumer working with hand-dyed fabric at Qingyun

  • CR: How many artists can you host at one time?
  • TN: We have room for up to 4 artists at once, and artists can come with partners and families as well.

  • CR: What kinds of ways are you hoping to help connect visiting artists with the local arts community?
  • TN: We’ll organize artist studio visits, I’m also a beginner in Beijing so I only know a few artists but the founders are very well connected through their own practices and professional careers. 

This interview was conducted in Beijing on August 22nd by Kira Simon-Kennedy for China Residencies.