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Pioneering dreamers building 'Baotou 798' art zone

By He Shuang Updated: 2016-04-29

Many art-lovers from China and even from abroad have heard about Beijing's 798 Art Zone, developed in the new century by turning an old factory site into a haven for artists, galleries, art studios and cafes with many different kinds of art and related events – now, there's another place to go, up north.

It's the Baotou Youth Haya Art Zone, in the city of Baotou, Inner Mongolia, which is the brainchild of Li Bin, who was born in 1990 and loves art, and explains his motive by saying, "I just want the city to have a place where people with a common interest in art can gather and learn with each other, through exchanges between art and customers."

Studio in Haya Youth Art Zone, Baotou. [Photo/Baotou Daily]

Li goes on to say that, as soon as he got the idea, he felt possessed, so much so that he began visiting other cities and talking with people there to learn from their experience.

"Baotou needed this kind of gathering place," he says and adds that he hesitated at first, wondering whether he could pull it off. But after discussing it with people and finding that many people embraced his idea, it gave him more confidence so he soon got two partners – Yang Kun, employee of a company and Cheng Yangang who sold beauty products.

There was a banquet to mark Haya's opening, this April 12. It's located in an old printing shop and deals with wood art, iron sculptures, leather ware, handicrafts made of old things, tattoos, motor vehicle detailing, photography, micro–films, and sketching, with handicrafts as the focus and many projects in calligraphy, music, sports under selection.

There is also an art bar, giving people a place to sit and talk in the zone.

After the opening, art lovers and dealers soon began arriving.

One of them is He Baobao, an Inner Mongolia University of Science and Technology student majoring in product design, who remarked, "My graduation design topic is about handicraft, old thing transformation and I want to combine them with some Mongolian cultural elements, and eventually I came here to learn."

Studio in Haya Youth Art Zone, Baotou. [Photo/Baotou Daily]

One of Haya's occupants is Li Yong who owns a wood studio and explains that he doesn't plan to give the studio a name because, he says, "I want it to be an integral part of Haya. I think that's better for exchanging ideas."

He goes on to say, "My grandfather was a carpenter and I watched him work when I was a child and slowly found myself in love with the work," then notes that old furniture restoration is his favorite pastime now.

Li, the zone originator, adds, "Slowly we began to see that we needed a general marketing plan, because it's only when we start to earn money that we'll know that Haya can survive."

So they started cooperating with businesses and trying various methods to looking for customers.

In this, they got some support from Jiang Tao, a Baotou public innovation alliance founder and manager of an Inner Mongolian investment company, who comments, "Haya is one of our key projects because the project matches today's young people's innovation and start-up ideas."

"We'll continue to help Haya work out a marketing plan and profit model for further development," he concludes by saying with great confidence.