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Folk Expo to Link Art with Market

Li Baofeng was apprehensive when she started her Phoenix paper-cut art center two years ago.

She was 33 and had a big family to take care -- her husband, son, parents-in-law and her own parents.

She wondered if she could handle the challenge, and if her family would accept the new situation.

Now, two years later, her company has grown into one of the well-known producers of paper cuts in China, and some countries in Southeast Asia have begun placing orders for her products. She herself has been invited to demonstrate the art of paper-cutting.

"I dream that one day my paper-cuts will travel around the world. And I am confident that there is a bright future for the traditional folk arts, as the market is so promising," said Li at the ongoing second China Changchun Folk Art Expo.

The expo, with the aim of helping bridge the gap between folk art and market, opened on Thursday in Changchun, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province, and is on for one week. Folk artists, dealers and visitors from around the country crowded into the two-kilometer-long, 15-meter-wide, exhibition street.

"Folk artists create their works due in large part out of personal interest, and they had no idea about how to market their works. This to some extent hinders the continuance and popularization of these arts," said Yin Lilong, a senior official from Changchun municipal government.

"It is urgent to bridge the gap between our rich folk art forms and the booming cultural product market to meet customers' demand," said Yin.

With the rapid speed of globalization and modernization, Chinese folk culture is being impacted on all sides by western culture, said Zhang Shouzhi, vice-chairman of the Jilin Folk Artists' Association.

"I think that popularizing our folk arts, which are endangered by the influx of Western art forms, will help protect them," Zhang added.

Further than this, systematically marketing folk arts will also help breathe fresh life into them and push forward their development and diversity, according to Wang Chunxin, a professor from a local art institution.

"The old folk arts tend to stick to their centuries-old designs and inspiration due to limited vision and technology.

Take paper cutting as an example, its subject matter is confined largely to animals and heroes of ancient historical stories. Entry into the market will force them to renovate and develop the old art forms if they are to become competitive," said Wang.

He Qinhong, another famous paper-cut artist in Changchun, could not afford to take part in the exhibition, as he didn't have enough money for a booth.

"I am good at cutting traditional figures such as animals and heroes. But people are too familiar with them and have no desire to buy," said He, also a farmer. "It is time to change now."

Experts say the government should give folk-art more help and support, and that intellectuals should get actively involved in the project.

(China Daily September 1, 2003)

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