A School where Farming is Art

Pavel-to-DMZ Place 4. NONBAT Art School

Because of it being a school, I smartened myself up, and entered the place ready to learn about art and farming, but this wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t such a hard place to be in. The slogan “Farming is Art” stands right out.

To put it simply, NONBAT Art School, situated in the village of art in Heyri, is a multi-space made by 7 artists. Holding accommodations, a kitchen, and a gallery, it has organized and held classes on topics such as nature, nature cooking, table manners, makgeolli, and eco-friendly recycling for the last 10 years. It is even more pleasing that traces of the activities held so far can be found everywhere in the place. And more so because you can hear stories from an “teacher grandmother”, who knows all these traces.

This is a very attractive place. A place where nature and art are hidden in every nook and cranny, or a place where you can find yourself naturally absorbed in nature and art without our knowing it. I looked around the place, my feet carrying me all around the building. Since the place is designed to allocate the space with stairs, instead of tampering with the mountain, it feels like you have just gone up a small hill.

Currently, the place focuses on accommodations, and it holds art exhibits and programs now and then. I recommend that you pay a visit even when there are no events, since the beauty of the place that is a combination of nature and art persists. There are rooms where you can stay called Salt Room, Sky Room. Of course, in the standards of a five-star hotel, this is not a great place to stay in, since it does not provide big ballrooms, fitness centers, and 24-hour room service. However, I am confident that this place will definitely receive 5 stars if rated according to nature, the ecosystem, art, and peace.

We will introduce this NONBAT Art School, located in Heyri Village, Paju, as the fourth place of pavel-to-DMZ. Being not far from the DMZ, this place has the context of the DMZ’s art, nature, ecosystem, and peace. As for accommodations, you must make reservations through the website linked below.

1652–118 Beopheung-ri, Tanhyeon-myeon, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea / https://blog.naver.com/nonbatart

<Interview with Jung Geum Ja, Host of the NONBAT Art School>

Interview space : NONBAT Art School / Interview start time : pm 4:23, 25 Aug 2020 / Age group : late 60’s / Home Country : Republic of Korea

How do you describe yourself in this space?

Grandmother

NONBAT Art School is a place where from the moment of construction, I discussed the purpose of it with the owner, Chun Ho Kyun. I believe he has worked in this field for nearly 10 years. When people, especially children come to visit, they call me “teacher grandmother.” The grandmother of the NONBAT Art School. A warm grandmother who can give advice to anyone, since I have known everything, went through everything, and experienced everything. I believe I can tell anyone I am such a grandmother.

‘principal’ was an expected answer since it is the school

Well… though I was a teacher for 5 years after graduating from college, I quit quickly because I had no interest in the job. Also, since this is not an official school, but a school where we share the wisdom of life, I welcome and am more thankful for such a warm prefix than the formal one of “head.”

How do you describe your everyday life in this space?

Continuous Busy Days

My whole life was a series of thinking and putting something into practice. I believe this is still going on, and I am doing work where I continue to think and put things into practice, to the point that I sometimes worry about my strength, due to my old age.

How do you describe the character of this space?

I started the NONBAT Art School with the idea of making it a place where I can share with consumers the things that I have thought of at Ssamzie, and wanted to put into practice, while communicating with them.

From the start, I did not dig away at the mountain and made the place with stairs, thinking to be an eco-friendly building. I tried to make an eco-friendly and artistic place by collaborating with artists according to the slogan “Farming is Art”, which I came up with at Ssamzie, and incorporating their artistic philosophy in every nook and cranny of the place. I have envisioned for ten years the place, which will entail food, culture events, and other various things that follows. I believe that even after ten years, this kind of places are more urgently in need. I am actually a bit regretful that it has become calmer and suffered a setback since we have started it with much enthusiasm.

You said this type of space is needed more than ever today. Why do you stay in the Paju not in the crowded city like Seoul?

Factors like the landscape or location cannot be said according to one standard. Actually, I have never thought about going to the city, wanting to be in the DMZ, or in the mountain. Since it is a place that captures nature, if you say it is in the city, it would no longer be NONBAT Art School.

How do you describe the mood of this space?

A Place with Silent Cries Amid Silence

When looking around, you can hear birds, and when looking at the red roof as you climb, the apples have fallen, and on the path leading off the main road, yellow flowers called Patrinia is blooming, and in the pond, the lotus flower blooms in the morning and folds itself at around four o’ clock, though no one takes the time to look, and when looking closely, you can see fish swimming in the pond, and the pumpkin stem that was small yesterday has grown 20 centimeters in a night…

An interesting person you communicate with in this space?

About four years ago from now, I got a call. An extremely famous doctor was visiting Korea at the invitation of a pharmaceutical company. He was a Jew and one of the world’s leading experts on cancer. Since the doctor was 100% vegan, even the plates he used must not have held fish or meat. That was a time when I ran a reservation restaurant, and I had the chance to prepare a meal for him. Buckwheat crepe, vegetables, and japchae. However, the doctor had another request, which was to make a program where he could experience Korean food. So I made a program for the doctor where you can make tteok-bokki with vegetables. I remember this well because it was interesting that such a famous doctor came here over other places to stay, as well as asking for a program where you can make food.

What is the word that describes you, looking at the DMZ?

A few years ago, Mr. Chun Ho Kyun had a chance to write about a good restaurant, and I always accompanied him. I would take notes while interviewing together, and I heard there were people with sad stories, since Paju is near North Korea. A restaurant was run by a person who came to the South briefly, but ended up staying, and they said their family is still in the North, and they thought they wouldn’t stay long in the South. They ended up running a restaurant while selling food they used to eat in the North in order to support themselves. Since I have lived here for over 10 years, these kinds of stories come to mind more vividly, and I feel sad.

Whether it is a coincidence or not, when I made “I like Strawberries” with the architect Mr. Minsuk Cho, we wondered why we had to make such a thing here. We thought for a while that it would be better to make a place where children can play freely, embodying a hope that after unification, people would be able to come and go freely from the North and South. Back then, I didn’t know that I would come to live here, and I just thought that it would be good to have children think about unification by making such a place. Later, I would come to live here, and would operate Peace Village with Mr. Chun Ho Kyun near here… Looking back, I feel like all these things were connected.

As we farm in the Ssamzie, we sometimes visit farmers in the Civilian Control line, and who do organic farming. It seems so peaceful there. Though I want to live there myself, there are no empty houses. Since there are a lot of restriction, due to it being different from other places, there are many advantages, and a community of their own, so they seem to have a fun life. If I move, I hope to hold a small exhibit there. There would be many exhibits, even with the theme of peace.

Could you tell something about Heyri Art Village?

We are not the people who started this. The place where “I Like Strawberries” is located was empty, due to there being a graveyard nearby. Back then, there was nothing, and there weren’t a lot of houses. After Mr. Minsuk Cho won an award for the structure of the place in a construction biennale, many students from the department of architecture came to see it. And when we opened, a lot of children came. Because there weren’t a lot of places for children back then, the children said they came to Heyri for the strawberries. Heyri was a self-governing village with specific plans for the road, the structure of the buildings, architectural paste, materials, and the color of the flowers from the moment of construction.

Interview end time : pm 4:58, 25 Aug 2020

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