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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

a photographer's delight-- Huashan 1914 Creative Park

When we first moved to Taiwan, I was terrified of going to Taipei by myself. It seems so silly to me now. What was I so afraid of -- getting lost, maybe? Not being able to figure out the metro? Not finding someone who understood English? I honestly cannot answer that question because I don't know what I was so afraid of, but whatever it was, I let it stop me from doing so many things I really wanted to do.

Luckily, I am a very different person now than I was then. Now, I am not afraid of doing something even if that means I could get lost or confused or misunderstood. Now, I trust myself enough to have my own back and figure things out. Now, I know I don't need to wait around for anyone else to do the things I want to do.

On a whim, I decided to visit Taipei earlier this week while our nanny watched Ruby. I decided to climb a mountain, but when I was done and had made it all the way back to the main metro station, I realized that I wasn't quite ready to head home. Sure, I was a little sweaty and dirty, but I was swimming in time and the desire for more adventuring.

I stood in the metro for a while staring at a map of the city trying to figure out what I wanted to do next when I saw that Huashan 1914 Creative Park was only a few metro stops away from where I was standing. I had just talked to one of my friends about it, and I thought she had said positive things about it. For me, that was reason enough to check it out, so I hopped on the metro and 15 minutes later I was standing at the entrance of the park.

I had no idea what to expect from this place, but I was pleasantly surprised with what I found. I know you probably have questions because, let's get real, the park has a bizarre name, so to get it out of the way, here is the gist of what this oddly named park is all about straight from the horse's mouth:
In 1997 members of the Golden Bough Theatre made a startling discovery.  There, deep in the heart of Taipei and cordoned off from all visitors, stood an abandoned factory.  The group described the factory as a city within a city, a place where nature was left to age with concrete for nearly a decade…and they were intrigued.   
While the young thespians did not know it at the time, they had stumbled upon one of the oldest and most well preserved structures in Taiwan. Built in 1914, the factory was among Taiwan’s largest wine producers throughout the 1920’s.  It had however, long since been abandoned.  
The brazen group “restored” a small section of the factory and began staging plays in the abandoned halls.  Their experimental performances, and intriguing choice of venue, quickly caught the attention of the local community…Unfortunately it also caught the attention of local law enforcement and the group was promptly cited for trespassing.  This minor act of excessive enthusiasm however, was just the beginning.  
Local artists became drawn to the open spaces, high ceilings and abundant natural light.  Soon art and literary giants from across Taipei began using the factory as an inspirational work space, giving performances and leaving their distinctive mark on the structures themselves.  
Word about this unique environment spread further and in 1999 the Association of Culture Environment Reform Taiwan, a non profit NGO, was established to oversee the restoration of the factory into a full fledged arts center.  The factory was renamed the Huashan Creative Park and, in 2005, the rebuilding of the Creative Park officially began.  
In 2007 the Taiwan Cultural-Creative Development Co. Ltd assumed responsibility for the renovation and operation of the Park and renamed it Huashan 1914.  An organically creative environment has been growing ever since.   Huashan 1914 now serves as Taipei’s primary creative arts center and a hosting ground for Taiwan’s most significant cultural activities.  Examples include the Simple Life music festival and the BiBo student design expo.  Today Huashan 1914 is not only the heart of Taiwan’s creative pulse, but also a bridge to a unique architectural past.

Now, I didn't know any of that before I visited the park or while I was there, but it didn't matter one lick because the second I laid my eyes on this place I made it my mission to simply wander around and take pictures. I instantly fell in love with all of the colors and textures and doors and windows and paintings and murals and trees and soft lighting.

I also had way too much fun [accidentally, I swear] photobombing couples who were here getting their wedding photos taken. I also had the great idea of taking Ruby here when we are in Taipei during our winter road trip around the island so I can take portraits. I am thinking baby & brick. What more could a mother possibly want in life?

Huashan 1914 Creative Park is certainly a beautiful place that I enjoyed very much, but even more than that, I will always remember how it felt to think about how the old me would never have been brave enough to do something as simple as ride a few trains and wander a few streets [albeit in a foreign country] to spend an hour strolling around such a delicious place, and how if that never changed over the past five years here, I would have missed out on so much more than just climbing a mountain and becoming well acquainted with all of these exposed brick walls.

I am so grateful I figured out some of the ingredients to a life well lived-- ride those trains, wander those streets, find those treasures.

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