by Kirby Lindsay, posted 21 February 2014
This month, local glass artist Rodman Miller will journey to ‘The Dream Community’, in Taipei, Taiwan, to create glass art – and build upon a cultural exchange that began over a decade ago through the Fremont Arts Council.
Gordon Tsai, And The Dream Community
“He’d be arrested here,” Miller said about Gordon Tsai, who founded ‘The Dream Community’. “He started with a parade and a workshop,” Miller explained, “and he brings in people from around the world.” An arts collective, ‘The Dream Community’ produces puppetry, art shows, dance, cultural events and sends artists out to indigenous villages for cultural exchanges – plus the colorful parades of gorgeous costumes, props, floats and Tsai, breathing fire. “One of the things I was aghast at – Gordon does fire breathing,” Miller explained, “and teaches little kids,” letting eager volunteers fill their mouths with gasoline to create the fire effect.
With his vision, ‘The Dream Community’ has challenged and re-directed the culture of Tsai’s country, and not just by teaching everyone to breath fire. About 13 years ago, Tsai chose to develop a parcel of his family rice farm (his parents still do work the remaining farm every day,) into a high-rise condominium. The development funds the art-based community, and includes a requirement that condo owners participate in ‘Dream Community’ arts festivals.
The development has grown (on this trip Miller will work on glass pieces for the lobby of building #7) and ‘The Dream Community’ can now employ about a dozen people to facilitate art projects, and help artists invited from around the world (and Fremont) in their creations, instruction and collaboration on a wide range of art. When Miller visits, he is given a place to stay, and he can eat at The Tree Café, owned by Tsai’s sister, Amy Tsai, and often becomes a gathering place for artists – those visiting and those from Taipei.
Indigenous Peoples And Glass Artists
‘The Dream Community’ has resurrected the creative and artistic instincts of the people of Taiwan, which had begun to slip away under the modern movement to develop and employ technology. The focus on standardized test scores and pursuit of careers left little space in the lives of the new generation to play and create.
“He has a fondness for the indigenous communities,” observed Miller about Tsai. Besides creating in Taipei, ‘The Dream Community’ also sends artists out to indigenous villages where they help preserve traditions, and share some of their own resources and artistic outlets.
For his contribution this month, Miller will be creating glass finials – similar to ones he’s installed around Fremont on the fence at Peet’s, as the ‘Blue Plate Special’ installed on the second floor, southwest corner of the Epi building, and on the fence at the Wallingford Boys & Girls Club – to go with stainless steel pieces created by Mark A. Stevens (creator of ‘Monsuang’, also on the Epi building.) A tile artist will also contribute a mosaic for the lobby of condominium building #7.
By his estimation, Miller has been participating in ‘The Dream Community’ for three or four years. On a previous trip, he made 1,200 glass doorknobs. He has hosted ‘Dream Community’ students, who often visit Fremont in June to help build the Solstice Parade.
Miller also advised Tsai on a glass-blowing studio for ‘The Dream Community,’ mostly suggesting Tsai not build it. “A glass studio requires a big hunk of equipment that most people don’t know how to use,” Miller explained, “nobody there knows how to maintain it. A kiln,” the piece of equipment primary to glass making, “needs constant maintenance.”
Collaboration In The Community
Yet, other artists, including some suggested by Miller, did construct a glass-blowing studio, and there Miller will create the finials. Miller is excited about the work he will do and the contribution he will make. “I love the idea of doing something with metal workers,” he said, “I’d like to get more of that out.”
“I have 500 vases downstairs,” he said of his studio on Mayfair Avenue. He can always create and sell vases, but he looks forward to the challenge of collaboration, “if I can make something and incorporate it into a larger work.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever be a really good metal worker,” Miller observed. He has learned how, but he said he doesn’t have the time to actually get good at it. “But I am a really good contributor,” he said.
While ‘The Dream Community’ will pay Miller for his work (plus room and board,) the money will barely cover the travel costs of bringing his wife, Susan, and step-son, along for part of the trip. Still, for the Millers, the opportunity to learn more about Taiwan, see the progress of ‘The Dream Community’, and share the experience via social media with others is a great reward. Susan Miller hopes to be able to contribute her own talents to the community while there too.
As the name implies, however, this is a cultural exchange – with the Taiwanese getting art unlike any they’ve experienced before in their country, and the artists given an opportunity to share, engage and educate. Plus, as Miller said, “hopefully the work gives some pictures that are striking!”
- The FAC Taiwan Connection: An Incomplete History
- by Kirby Lindsay, February 19, 2014
- All This, And Sputnik Too?
- by Kirby Lindsay, November 23, 2009
- Fremont Public Art Inventory: Epi
- by Kirby Lindsay, December 27, 2010
©2014 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.