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As part of an international environmental awareness program, the Taiwan leg of the "Forest Project” will be held at the Taipei-based National Museum of History (NMH) from March 8 through May 4. Over 1,400 paintings by Taiwanese students will not only be part of the main exhibition, but will also be available for purchase online to help raise funds for a tree-planting campaign in Pingtung.
The "Forest Project,” which originated in a "Mankind & Nature” collaborative project by the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and international conservation agency RARE, is currently organized by mainland Chinese contemporary artist Xu Bing (徐冰).
Xu was invited to organize the Forest Project after a trip to Kenya, where he developed a fund-raising project that would auction drawings painted by school children between the ages of 6 and 12 for Kenya's forest restoration funds. Through such a system, art helps to finance environmental protection efforts. He then extended the project to Brazil, Hong Kong, and mainland China, working with over 200,000 children to draw trees.
The Forest Project was introduced to Pingtung's Sadimen Township (三地門鄉) in 2013, and Xu announced the launch of the project in Taiwan in his capacity as Discovery Channel's Earth Day ambassador.
Xu's three-part program in Taiwan focuses on arts education, environmental protection, and cultural heritage. The artist first taught in Sandimen, an area devastated by Typhoon Morakot in 2009, and trained seed instructors. In the second stage, the organizers introduced the project to more school children around Taiwan through the internet and the seed instructors.
The third stage is to hold a presentation exhibition at the NMH. The three-month exhibition comprises of three topics: the current status of the Forest Project in Taiwan, the project's origin, and its future plans.
The first topic includes a display of a large forest landscape painting Xu created based on Taiwanese children's drawings, and a comparison of the two. The "origin” exhibition is divided into two sections - a "forest classroom,” in which the NMH's collection is used as teaching materials to introduce local cultural heritage to visitors. On display in the other section are photographs and videos of the project's implementation in Kenya.
The "future” part presents the influences of the project on Kenyan children and the forests there, the growth of trees planted in the Taiwan project, and the cycle of "human beings, funds, and trees.” The project pushes for "transforming trees on paper into real trees” and changing the environment for the better through art.
The final stage of the project is a tree-planting event scheduled to be held in Sandimen on April 22, which is celebrated as Earth Day around the world. For more information on the project and the children's artworks available for purchase, please visit forestproject.org.