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Painting a new growth landscape

By ALEXIS HOOI, WANG LINYAN and MA ZHENHUAN in Quzhou and Lishui, Zhejiang | China Daily| Updated: November 30, 2021 L M S


Yudong village's rural art museum showcases its distinctive artwork to an increasing number of visitors. CHINA DAILY

Improved environment

Zhejiang's rural vitalization efforts, which build on local physical, cultural and environmental strengths, are making similar headway in the Guyan Huaxiang scenic spot in Liandu district of the city of Lishui.

More than 80 wood product factories dotted the area less than a decade ago, prompting local authorities to relocate polluting industries and invest in protecting and promoting the environment for more sustainable development.

Amid the improving environment and local government support and incentives to develop the artistic and creative culture sectors, Liandu's lush mountains and clear waterways soon attracted more than 120 artists' studios and painters. This in turn drew about 1.9 million tourists to the countryside each year.

Top paintings can command nearly 100,000 yuan each, while one guesthouse reported annual income of over 500,000 yuan, even amid pandemic travel disruptions, according to local authorities.

The Guyan "painting village" has since become known among artistic and creative circles for nurturing a community of artists who paint landscapes in the style of the European Barbizon School, the mid-19th-century French school of painting that made a significant contribution to the establishment of Realism in French landscape painting.

Zhao Mei left the provincial capital, Hangzhou, to set up her art studio in Guyan Huaxiang two years ago.

The Barbizon-style painter enjoys rental waivers covering five years and related subsidies of about 30,000 yuan a year to help her play a role in local development, which includes offering art classes to the community.

"The air here is really good. I came for the pristine environment, and I plan to stay for the long term," she said.

Li Wujun, who runs a nearby art gallery, was also drawn by Guyan Huaxiang's opportunities. Li, 52, a Liandu native, returned from Milan to help promote local art appreciation and cultural development through major exhibitions and related events.

"In these two years, we've seen an increasing number of visitors from cities such as Shanghai, Hangzhou, Wenzhou and beyond," said Li, the art director of the Boland art and culture center.

"I try to promote our local artists' work as well, to help build our own art community," he said.

Zhao said the improvements and upgrading are "not just about bread-and-butter issues. It's also about art, culture and our overall well-being."

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