Presenter Interview プレゼンターインタビュー
Art bringing hope to Echigo-Tsumari The ongoing journey of Fram Kitagawa
Projects aimed at using contemporary art as a vehicle to stimulate local community and economic development in regions around Japan are appearing one after another, and a situation that is certainly rare anywhere in the world is developing in the process. One of the forerunners of this trend is the “Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial” launched in 2000 in the Echigo-Tsumari region of Niigata Prefecture, an area struggling with the effects of an excessively high rate of depopulation and percentage of elderly citizens. In two townships with a large area of farm and mountain land covering some 760 square kilometers, artists, local residents and supporters have created about 360 large works of outdoor art, and uninhabited houses and closed school buildings have been made available as art spaces in hopes of revitalize the local community through art. With the increasing involvement of art NPOs around the country, active fieldwork by students of art universities and the start of financial support for regional community renewal through art by local governments and corporations, this movement has spread throughout Japan over the last ten years. A wide variety of art projects of all types are now being pursued everywhere from remote islands and depopulated regions to the major metropolises. The pioneer of these art-based community renewal programs is Fram Kitagawa, the general director of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial and initiator of numerous different art projects around Japan.
The art movements in Japan after World War II have been led by people who were student artists of the Zengakuren and Zenkyoto student organizations in the 1950s to the early ’70s and intellectuals of the literati. Today, these people are in positions of responsibility, teaching at universities, serving as directors of public cultural facilities or directing corporate philanthropic efforts related to the arts, and in these capacities they are continuing to promote new social movements through the arts. Kitagawa is one of the key persons among these. Just before his Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial opened for its 4th holding on July 26, we spoke with Kitagawa concerning the current state of this festival and other main regional festivals like the newly launched “Niigata Water and Land Arts Festival” and the “Aqua Metropolis in Osaka 2009” festival, where he works with local volunteers and artists in a directorial capacity in the movement to bring hope to localities through art. (Interview: Eiko Tsuboike)