22nd September 2012.
Suwon, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
Suwon maybe well-known for Hwaseong, a UNESCO World Heritage Site but it will be a pity if you don’t drop by a lesser known attraction of Suwon. Located near Suwoncheon and Hwahongmun, bounded by Hwaseomun-ro to the north and Jeongjo-ro to west is a hidden alley filled with colourful murals.
Within the old walls of Hwaseong there is an admirable grassroots movement led by two former art teachers including Yi Yun Suk 이윤숙, a talented sculptor. The cheerful and enthusiastic lady now in her 50s was once a resident in this neighbourhood known as Buksudong.
The neighbourhood was dotted with old houses that were probably decades if not centuries old and it was dull and depressing, hence one day the artists sought to revitalize the neighbourhood.
A hole in the wall kiosk for takeaway coffee along the alley.
Together with the residents of the neighbourhood including a number of elderly people, they painted murals and her former home became a kind of arthub known as the Alternative Art Space Noon where people get together to make craft or hold exhibitions giving budding artists recognition and most importantly engaging the community.
The result was a new lease of life to the neighbourhood, the dark alleys are now painted with bright and colourful murals and when we visited there a group of young people had just finished a performance and the souvenir stall sells crafts made by the elderly in the community.
In a way, the effort seemed to give a new meaning and some sort of ownership to the residents of Buksudong, the murals reminded me of Georgetown in Penang and Haji Lane (pity we have misguided "building conservationists") in Singapore. Anyway, do make it a point to visit the Buksudong Art Alley. Souvenirs being sold include handmade ceramics, handkerchiefs and pretty ornaments.
They also have a friendship lock kind of fence here.
Alternative Art Space Noon