How long have you been in Cheongju, and what do you do here?
I first came here in 2001. I returned to the States for 2 years from 2007-09 to get my public school license and not find any decent teaching jobs. So, I’ve been back here since 2009. In total, I have lived in Cheongju for about 12 years, but I work in Jeungpyeong at Korea National University of Transportation.
I’ve never lived in any other city in Korea, so Cheongju sort of feels like my second hometown.
What did you do pre-Cheongju?
I was living in the States in Ohio and working as an adjunct in a local college. I taught studio art classes in oil, acrylic, and watercolor, as well as teaching art history and color theory. I was also working part-time at an art gallery doing framing… and day-dreaming about travel.
What do you do for fun?
I really like to hike Sangdangsansong. The inside loop is nice and then I like to have a few makgolis afterward in the little village. I have no idea how many times I’ve done it. It’s not the most difficult nor beautiful hike in Korea but it’s a damn good backyard. Also, I spend a good bit of time at the art center that my friend runs. I enjoy working in the studio and talking with other artists and musicians.
And, of course spending time with my family—my wife, two daughters, and Mongie (the dog).
Right, the Cheongju Art Club! How did that happen?
I remember years back when there just wasn’t any space for artists to work or gather. My friend opened his art space (예술상회) six years ago and has always welcomed anyone to come and work. Art Club has been a nice experience to meet new folks, share ideas and do some creative work. We’re now in transition to a new space, but I hope to start back up soon.
What were your first impressions of the art scene in Cheongju, and has that changed?
Back in 2002, there wasn’t much organization. I knew several Korean artists, but most worked independently and exhibiting in Cheongju wasn’t really much considered. There was the Shin Gallery and Mushim Gallery as well as smaller places like Spacemom. However, the majority of exhibition spaces and art centers we now have didn’t exist then. Places like the old tobacco factory (where the Cheongju Craft Bienale is held) was vacant. Also, the HIVE artists group behind that building was not yet established.
In 2007, the Cheongju Art Studio in Yongamdong opened and a few years later Art Firm/예술상회 was established, which is where Art Club meets. There are also many other new groups, galleries, and studios around town. Many of these art organizations have artist-in-residency programs and there are quite a few foreign artists here in Cheongju. That has made for a much more active and diverse art scene. Cheongju has really come so far in the arts in just the last ten years.
What are your hopes and expectations for Art Club, for Cheongju arts in general, in the future?
My original concept of Art Club was for it to be more of a cooperative organization. Somehow, it developed into me just teaching classes in painting and drawing. The first six months worked well as many of the same people attended the sessions each week and we were able to actually have what was the equivalent of a whole semester university studio course in painting.
However, this past year it has been difficult to teach an ongoing program. So, when Art Club starts up again this spring, we will offer monthly or bi-monthly workshops instead of weekly classes. That way, anyone can come for the one-time workshop, learn all the basics, and complete a project. I would like to bring in guest artists to teach different mediums.*
As far as future hope for the arts in Cheongju, it would be nice to see more involvement and more events. This summer, I would like to hold something outside that involves music, performance, and art. Maybe we can make that happen with a team…**
What's something in Cheongju that everyone should do at least once?
Go explore some of the antique shops that are off the beaten track. Many of these are just greenhouse vinyl structures in the country or just outside of town. There used to be some back behind the MBC building in Gagyeong-dong, and one out past where the driver’s test is given near Gadeokmyeon, Cheongwongun. I’ve bought some cool old stuff at reasonable prices like old Korean doors and windows, vintage ashtrays, books, tools, you name it.
Any advice for Cheongju-ers?
Get mobile and out to the countryside. There are tons of odd little places you’ll never see if you’re limited to public transport. Go camping! Check out www.campingjido.com to find all the campgrounds in Korea. You can go all out glamping at some places and rent everything if that’s your thing or just gear yourself up. One of my favorite local places is Hwa Yang Valley (화양계곡) just north of Songnisan. There are also places to camp very nearby like Moon-am Seng Tae Park(문암생태공원) which is on the way to Ochang on Mushim Seo Road. It’s kind of “city camping”, but fun anyway. This is a huge park/playground for in-line skating and has a very large grassy area for frisbee or whatnot. There is one area where you can camp and cookout. It’s first come first serve, but free…and dog friendly.
*If anyone is interested in teaching a workshop or leading one along with me, please message me on the Cheongju Art Club facebook page. It would also be nice to have someone help me with the Art Club program, so if anyone who has some background in art is interested in helping, contact me.
**I need to give a special thanks to Jenna Sparks who made the Art from the Moon event happen again. I thought that went very well. Lots of fun and a good turnout. Thanks also to Peter McGowan, Stephen Jamieson, Lewis Whelan and Ursula Seo from Mega Tattoo and of course Seong Tae ji from Soundgarden. Lots of others helped out so thanks to everyone I’ve forgotten to mention.