The Dream Community is a community of artists and families in Shijr City, Taiwan. The director of the community, Gordon Tsai, invites international artists to participate in residencies several times a year. Gordon’s interest in community arts is inspired by puppets and pageantry, and he sends several of his employees across the world to research different celebrational pageants and festivals.The Dream Community includes a Chinese restaurant, a bakery whose loaves are filled with their goats’ milk, the Tree Cafe whose dishes are inspired by the ethnicity of its multiethnic staff, and the ongoing construction of a residential building of 100 apartments with a first floor theater, plus the organization of an annual puppet/samba parade.
Tsai has an intense passion for the arts. His ardor crosses over into business, to the extent that anyone who is interested in buying one of his apartments must sign a contract agreeing to three unique conditions: 1. A prospective tenant must participate in a worldwide festival such as Burning Man; 2. The tenant then needs to organize a group of at least 10 people under a unified theme to march in the Dream Community parade and; 3. Most importantly, if a tenant wants to resell, any increase over 3 percent of the original price goes back into the community as there is a price control. The first floor theater will be used to present ongoing cultural activities to community residents, this floor is called the “Crazy Center”.
Sijhih in Taipei County east of Taipei City is notorious for massive flooding in the 1980s forcing half the population to flee. After an embankment was built in 2002, flooding from the Keelung River was no longer a problem and the area is now home to approximately 200,000 middle class office workers. Tsai whose roots go deep to this land as his poor rice farming father previously owned a half acre, decided to develop and improve the land. Desiring to do something inspiring for the community, Gordon spent several years to travel around the world, visiting festivals and researching community projects to see what he could bring back. Inspired by Seattle’s Fremont Solstice and Nevada’s Burning Man festivals, Gordon sought to create such an event in Taiwan so five years ago he began his own parade filled with huge papier-mache puppets, stilt walkers and lots of costumed school children.
In 2006’s parade he spent NT$4 million of his own money to bring 25 international artists, who call themselves “celebration artists” as they are working in public festivals rather than within museum institutions, to teach the community to make puppets and maneuver on stilts. The first parade had 200 participants, but the latest version had 6,000 which included 600 drummers collectively beating out a samba rhythm to accompany an aboriginal song titled “Naruwan.” Local school students and their parents participated, while architecture students had also built elaborate structures from bamboo armatures.
Tsai spends an average of NT$15 million annually to sponsor art by sending Taiwanese artists abroad and inviting foreign artists to Taiwan; he encourages the artists to travel to various areas of Taiwan such as Chongli and Pingtung to share their expertise, to help spread small parades and to teach communities puppet-making.
The Dream Community is open to innovative ideas and will help several selected artists live out their dreams.