How to use art to solve social issues? How can art institutions better serve society? These two issues are the long-standing mission of the Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation.
On July 17, 2019, the “Chinese Art Public Welfare” seminar jointly sponsored by the Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation and the Tencent Social Research Center was launched at Tencent. The guests attending the conference included Wang Guan, Deputy Secretary General of the China Minority Culture and Art Promotion Association, Bao Xurui, Deputy Director of the International Public Welfare Institute Cooperative Development Center, Wang Chunchen, Deputy Director of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, and Ada Zhang, Chair of the UCCA Foundation for Art and Education, Jiang Gong, Editor of the online charity channel, Xu Ke, Senior Researcher at the Tencent Social Research Center, and Hu Fei, Secretary General of the Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation.
“We hope to build a platform to explore and promote the development of art public welfare.”
— Hu Fei, Secretary General, Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation
Hu Fei: We hope to take the lead in making a "White Paper on Chinese Art Public Welfare.” The first step is to work with the Tencent Social Research Center and Tencent Public Welfare to explore what institutions in China are currently practicing art public welfare. The goal is not just to collect data and knowledge of representative cases, but to also bring together more institutions and personnel who are making efforts in similar areas. If the amount of data recovered is small, that would be a sign that the institutions and people practicing art public welfare are really scarce. What are the reasons why we can also discuss the scarcity through the survey results? What are the difficulties and what can be done about them? My confusion arises from two aspects. First, art public welfare is not easy to classify; there is also a lack of measurement standards, and the ratio of input to output is not good. Second, there is a lack of effective promotion, that is, the issue of influence.
“There must be a mechanism for resource integration and collaboration.” —
Wang Guan, Deputy Secretary General of the Chinese Minority Culture and Art Promotion Association
I think it's not just at the art level, but actually it's a larger cultural issue. We currently have only a few institutions that delineate the art field. But if we define it as a large cultural field, we will suddenly find that many like-minded organizations are doing this, including us. Our organization is called the China Minority Culture and Art Promotion Association. It is a national NGO based on the National Civil Affairs Commission. However, we have undertaken many government functions of the National Civil Affairs Commission’s Cultural Propaganda Department, including the nationality. We are doing a lot of activities, such as the promotion of culture and ethnic minorities, including providing cultural support in minority areas and cultural poverty alleviation. Today's discussion I think is also very valuable, and I have put forward some ideas based on our practice in the field.
“We have been exploring self-hematopoiesis.”
—Ada Zhang, Chair of the UCCA Foundation
UCCA exhibitions have always been non-profit, because this is at the core of UCCA and it must never be compromised. To support these exhibitions, more money is needed to do better. Therefore, we will develop a variety of related products, including shops, councils, and gala fundraisers. These initiatives help to renew our blood, which goes directly to support the blood vessels of our exhibitions. In doing so, we are actually doing the most fundamental thing for ourselves to ensure sustainability.
“Public welfare is not just about helping others, but it is also about the expansion of human knowledge structures.”
—Wang Chunchen, Deputy Director of the Art Museum of the Central Academy of Fine Arts
We insist on quality exhibitions that we must do from the very beginning. From the perspective of a professional art institution, all of our exhibitions are based on expanding art support and expanding public appreciation and understanding of art. We have been trying some different exhibitions. In the exhibition planning arena, one-third of the exhibitions at the Central Academy of Fine Art Museum are planned for the public, so that not only the students or teachers of the school, but also the wider public can participate. Why are we doing this? Because the social function aspect of the museum needs to be strengthened; it does not exist only for artists.
“The whole society is undergoing a transition from satisfying the stomach to satisfying the heart.”
— Bao Xurui, Deputy Director, Cooperative Development Center, International Public Welfare Institute
I think that some organizations have their own mission to do art development. There are also some non-professional institutions or projects whose main purpose is not art, but the mission of the institution itself may align with art development through art education or other art means. For example, the case of an institution working to benefit those with autism that we mentioned earlier. This institution’s mission is to make life better for children with autism. So when we are doing research, should we consider these two types of institutions as different? If it is not possible to distinguish between them, it is possible to count the projects of such organizations whose mission is not art, but who may have projects that involve art, and include them in a future white paper. I personally think that it is better to distinguish between the two forms of use according to whether art is an institutional goal or a means. The current trend in China is indeed that the boundaries between business and public welfare are becoming more and more blurred. We have many innovations taking place in the realms of public welfare, finance, technology, and art. Various methods and different means are applied to various institutions. Therefore, I think that in the future, we will be able to expand the reach of art public welfare to a much greater degree.
“How can art publicity make ordinary people feel better?”
—Xu Ke, Senior Researcher, Tencent Social Research Center
Tencent Public Welfare has its own characteristics as an Internet public interest platform. Each user can log in to Tencent's public welfare platform through WeChat, so it is mainly a channel for C-end. At present, most Chinese people are more likely to have perceptions and feel strongly about major disasters, major illnesses or poverty alleviation projects. Whereas art public welfare ranks relatively high in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Some people may ask why buy musical instruments or support art education when some children in poor mountain areas can't even buy books, and they have difficulties in going to school? Such problems have been encountered before. The question I have is, how can art public welfare projects better promote themselves? The comfort and spiritual improvement art offers to people should be better expressed so that the general public can be more aware. This is what we hope to learn and improve on through this project.
"Be sure to beat the drums when you do good things."
—Jiang Cheng, Xinhua Net Public Interest Channel Editor
Our media is actually a beating drum. When an organization is doing well, more people should know and recognize it. I think this is also a public good. Serious illnesses and major disasters may not require us to do too much communication. In the era of social media, a lot of fundraising takes place among social media networks, so I think that art public welfare needs to be more vocal. Another aspect is that we need to see art public welfare projects that are long-term and long-lasting. They should not be flash in the pan efforts with no follow-up. We’re seeing now that many people are willing to visit art galleries and museums. I think this is a good thing. There’s still great development to come in the field of art. We should form alliances and use the power of sharing to accomplish the promotion and development of art public welfare.
Lei Chengzuo, Director of the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau Foundation Management Office
Wang Zhenyao, Dean of China Public Welfare Institute and Shenzhen International Public Welfare Institute
Wang Xiaobing, Director of the Social Research Center of Tencent Research Institute