The story appears on

Page B6

November 3, 2010

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Street shows enliven Taiwan scene

AS a fan of artists such as Monet and Gauguin, 58-year-old Li Lan copies parts of their paintings on umbrellas and recycled bags and sells them on street corners of Taipei.

Li and eight fellow art lovers formed a painters' workshop and got a license to perform in outdoor public spaces in 2006.

"We are somewhat different because each of our members can finish painting an umbrella or a bag in three minutes," says Li, who used to study arts in the United States and has taught in an art school in Taipei.

"Such speed is hard to achieve with traditional painting methods. We created our own way by combining Western and Eastern painting approaches," she says. "We are able to finish a painting with a few strokes since we can apply different colors in a single stroke."

Their skills have also brought in sound profits. "Our sales once hit 200,000 New Taiwan dollars (US$6,494) in two weekend days," she says.

With a recycled bag selling for 250 New Taiwan dollars, an umbrella retailing for 250-700 New Taiwan dollars, and painting a flower on a customer's jeans or clothes for 100 New Taiwan dollars, it's hardly surprising that the workshop impresses fellow street performers in the city.

To encourage legitimate street performances, the Taipei city leaders issued a regulation in 2005 that allowed any street performance group and individuals with a license to perform in public areas inside the metro system and parks. This lifted previous restrictions on outdoor public space.

"The city aims to free up the artistic environment in hope that people with artistic specialities will have a space to show their talent," says Hsieh Hsiao-yun, head of the city's cultural affairs department.

"We also want to enable the public to be able to appreciate art just around the corner," he says.

According to the department, more than 1,000 street performance groups and individual entertainers have been granted qualification certificates after taking tests organized by cultural affairs authorities.

The talents include painting portraits, singing, acrobatics and juggling, posing as "living" statues, magic, street dancing, candy making, molding rice dough figurines and making designs with straw.

Andy Chen and Kris Shen, now members of the pop duo AK in Taiwan, received a street performance permit last year, partly for fun and partly to promote their careers.

"I used to sing in underpasses when I was in high school to earn pocket money but I had to be careful to dodge the police," Chen says.

Now they use street shows to get in touch with the public, performing just a few steps from pedestrians. They say it can also be a warm up for concerts.

Yang Yuan-ching, 19, is a student of the Taiwan University of Arts. While he is already popular for his yo-yo street performance synchronized to rhythmic music beats, he has developed a new skill, diabolo, using a spinning spool on thread that is tossed and whirled with two sticks.

"Diabolo has become my most lucrative performance. I once got 1,600 New Taiwan dollars for a five-minute show," he says.

"But I still need to polish my skills. I have to overcome my shortcomings before others see them," he says. "I hope I can win applause from the whole world one day."

Many street performers in Taipei only work part-time on weekends and on holidays, and mostly not for profit, but some rely on street shows for a living.

Chang Bo-wei, head of the Taiwan Street Performer Association, said street performers once were treated as beggars, but ideas have changed.

Chang, who is skilled in pantomime, singing and playing musical instruments, says: "Street performers can inject color and vitality into the city. Now people are gradually learning to appreciate our performance, instead of only throwing coins into tin cans."


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend