New cultural center caters to every taste

READ a book. View folk art. Listen to a live concert. Study photography. There’s something for everyone at the Jing’an District Cultural Center, which reopened this month after a two-year renovation.
Ti Gong

Red brick cladding on the outside of the Jing’an District Cultural Center gives the facility a warm, welcoming feel.

READ a book. View folk art. Listen to a live concert. Study photography. Learn to make chocolate.

There’s something for everyone at the Jing’an District Cultural Center, which reopened this month after a two-year renovation.

The center, at 459 Wulumuqi Road N., is a quadrangle of four buildings. The fa?ade of red brick ceramic cladding melds with the roadside lines of sycamore trees, adding a nostalgic charm to a modern facility.

The seven-story main building is designed as a place for leisure public arts, said Song Ru, an official with the center.

Every Friday, free lunchtime concerts will be held on the ground floor next to the café. There’s cozy space for visitors to curl up and read a book.

A variety of training courses will be offered in classrooms on the fifth floor, covering subjects like traditional Yueju opera, ballet dancing and photography.

“These activities are tailored to white-collar workers,” Song said, referring to a major population group in the area. “We want to provide them a stress-free place after work.”

“Openness” is a hallmark of the new center, said Kuai Dashen, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

“It’s not just about the opening of cultural facilities,” he said. “It also means offering exciting new opportunities to the public at large, without barriers.”

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE
Ti Gong

A third-floor exhibit gallery will host a number of prominent events, including the biennale Jiangnan Spring exhibition this month and next, featuring painting, folk arts and handicrafts by Shanghai artists.

Such exhibitions will “liven up the center,” according to Jiang Shanyong, an official with the district’s cultural authority.

“Many cultural sites simply put all they have into one exhibition, and it’s the same day after day, year after year,” he said. “But that begs the question: Why would anyone want to pay a second visit? We want to provide a venue for changing exhibitions that draw people back.”

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Another way to keep the center “fresh” is to create interactive experiences, he added. That will be a primary function of the other three buildings at the cultural center, which will carry forward themes of “intangible cultural heritage.”

The district has designated 25 categories of traditional art and customs as cultural heritage icons, including local snacks and the historic cheongsam dress. Displays will feature items and photos telling the stories of each of them. Master craftsmen will be invited to demonstrate their skills for visitors and invite participation.

Modern culture will also find a niche. Classes in wine tasting, chocolate making and coffee brewing are also on the agenda.

The image of a huge, white sycamore is “planted” on a side of the hall housing a theater on the ground floor. Inside the 199-seat theater, a décor of “twigs” stretches to the ceiling, displaying green and yellow leaves to symbolize seasonal changes.

Ti Gong

Renowned Kunqu opera artist Zhang Jun sings jazz tunes at the center’s opening ceremony.

At the center’s opening ceremony on June 16, renowned Kunqu opera artist Zhang Jun sang some jazz tunes, a pingtan storyteller gave a rendition of popular melodies and an international band performed.

The performance agenda features themes of “East meets West” and “old meets new.” It includes performances by well-known troupes like the Shanghai Drama Arts Theater and community-based shows created and performed by local residents.

“We don’t aim to make profits,” said center Director Wei Yanhua. “Any fees we charge will be up to 50 percent below those in other cultural venues.”

Bao Yingjing, district deputy director, said the venue will deliver cultural activities to the broad range of people in the district.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

“On this year’s agenda, we have 225 programs lined up, including shows, classes and exhibitions,” she said. “They will be provided by 92 groups. Performances will be staged here and across the community, in schools and commercial areas.”

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