Art, in essence, is a community endeavor. It provides a vital connection to others by reminding us of our shared humanity. Through art we can form communities, build bridges between cultures, and better empathize with others.
Many remember 2009 as the year Typhoon Morakot, perhaps the most severe typhoon Taiwan had ever witnessed, ravaged the country. In the days that followed the storm, Taiwan was inundated with tragic stories. Every community in Taiwan watched in horror as it destroyed homes and displaced people through much of the country. Across the island, individuals and groups responded to the crisis in many ways, eager to help those in need. On September 5th 2009, nineteen artists and numerous musicians gathered together to “beat the flood” and provide relief from humanitarian disaster. At Artists Beat the Flood (ABTF), each artist created a complete work of art in less than twelve hours. While attendees watched the canvases bloom with color, they chatted over food and danced to live music. Each work of art was auctioned off at the end of the day.
This collection of artists and musicians – foreigners and locals, children and adults – raised half a million New Taiwanese dollars and donated all of it to disaster relief. Organizers Roma Mehta, Tim Joel and Steven Parker, recognized an opportunity for artists to use their creativity to give back, and they did so with vigor and enthusiasm.
“We all jumped in and carried the day through with amazing energy. We’re all troubled by people suffering so much. We love Taiwan, call it our home, and are excited something good could come out of it all, despite the destruction.” Roma Mehta said when interviewed by The Wild East magazine.
Undoubtedly, ABTF proved that art could be used to uplift and inspire and to give back to those beyond the artists’ immediate community. Five years later, Manav Mehta, Red Room curator, revived the event and invited people to rally around a community for artists, both local and foreign, including those who had gathered for the 2009 event. Artists Beat the Flood II (ABTF II) nourished a community that had been created solely to provide a space for artists, musicians, poets and patrons of the arts. Art transformed from an academic practice meant to be dissected to a living organism which, invigorated by the joyful interactions with others splashed from canvas to microphone. Families frolicked through the space, sprinkling paint on CD mobiles, posing in life-size cutouts, laughing over colorful, sparkling drinks. ABTF II empowered them to continue supporting budding artists, musicians and creative people.
Thanks in part to the funds from ABTF II, the Red Room, a budding organization, flourished. The volunteer-driven social enterprise expanded and enabled amateur and professional artists, musicians and writers to share their passion with and lend their support to each other. Many of the artists who participated in the two ABTF events became an integral part of the Red Room community, along with many others. By 2015, the Red Room had evolved and, on the verge of another transformation, hosted the third installment of the now annual live art event, Artists Break the Mold III (ABTM III).
Over the years, these artist gatherings have become something the community looks forward to. “My brief time at [ABTM III] opened my eyes to the Earth-shatteringly vital human concept of just putting ourselves out there,” said Amit Ajwani, an innovative vendor who dazzled attendees with his fizzy concoctions. “I hope you are all as grateful as I am for its existence in our oftentimes discouraging little world.” Dan O’Shea, a musical performer, echoed his thanks saying, “The talent in Taipei and the opportunity to showcase and share our ideas and gifts is a blessing.” The Red Room represented ‘home’ and acted as inspiration for its members to affect positive change beyond their own circles. These art and music events have become an intrinsic part of Red Room culture.
Although some of the proceeds were dedicated toward expanding a heartening, artistic community, when an earthquake hit Nepal shortly after ABTM III, Red Room immediately responded by donating funds to disaster relief efforts in Nepal.
Red Room recognizes the community has thrived thanks to those who uplifted its members. Using art as a platform, Red Room has sought to aid those recovering from disaster, and provides opportunities for those inside and outside the community. This year, Red Room will continue in its outward-looking efforts by hosting the fourth installment of its now annual live art event. Artist Bridge the Gap IV: #opportunitycreators (ABTG IV) will follow the same format as its predecessors, and will focus on providing opportunities for minorities in need.
ABTG IV will bring people together with art, music and theater to connect the Taiwanese community with others in Germany. Musicians will perform selections from a playlist curated by refugees in Germany. Attendees will spend the day intermingling with the artists, musicians and performers at the event. A midday theater performance featuring true stories will be another aspect of the day attendees can look forward to. ABTG IV also offers interactive activities for participants, featuring postcards to decorate and a camera to film with for attendees who wish to send messages to those whose stories we heard, along with other surprise activities.
The majority of the proceeds will be dedicated to the Queer Refugees Network Leipzig (QueeRNL) project, an initiative under the umbrella of Rosalinde Leipzig e.V. QueeRNL hopes to effectively integrate LGBT refugees into German society through creating a safe community for them to heal and explore the cultures of both Germany and their home countries, and to offer education and financial aid.
Red Room would like to invite the community to join them in bridging the gap between global communities this coming May. The event promises to celebrate the potential we all have if given the opportunity. Together, we will create art, music, messages and memories throughout the day to highlight our shared humanity and support one another.
To join Red Room or learn more about ABTG IV, and the people it is benefiting, please visit Red Room’s website.
Leah List is the editor for the Red Room. A recent graduate of the University of Michigan’s Political Science and International Studies program, she is an aspiring writer, researcher, human rights advocate and a believer in the importance of storytelling. She currently resides in Tianmu. In her free time, she can be found at the Red Room, where she volunteers.
Images: Courtesy of the Red Room
Read more articles from Centered on Taipei here
You can find updates by searching for #ABTGIV, #RedRoomTaipei, and #opportunitycreators on Facebook, twitter or Instagram.
You can also learn more by visiting Red Room’s website or Facebook at the following links:
To view past images and videos of Red Room’s events, follow the links here:
Photo Album of Artists Beat the Flood: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjZ8JpJ8
Photo Album of Artist Break the Mold: https://flic.kr/s/aHskbf3ufK