In emphasis on art, brewer shifts to long-term perspective

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In emphasis on art, brewer shifts to long-term perspective

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Hite-Jinro, well known for its alcoholic beverages, runs a gallery named Hite Collection in Gangnam District, southern Seoul. The gallery is currently holding the “Our Awesome Moment” exhibition put together by 13 local artists through June 5. Provided by the company

For Hite-Jinro, well known for its Hite beer and Chamisul soju, seeking ways to help more people find fun in their lives is the driving force behind its cultural sponsorship activities.

After years of collaborating with cultural festivals, including the Cheongju International Craft Biennale, through its regional offices, Hite-Jinro headquarters in Cheongdam, southern Seoul, has decided to set up a more concrete and long-lasting support system to give back to the community.

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Residents of Gangnam District, southern Seoul, get a tour at the Hite Collection gallery at Hite-Jinro headquarters. Provided by the company

The company, which in 2007 established its Hite Foundation to focus on planning cultural projects, will utilize its Hite Collection art gallery. The gallery was opened in the headquarters building in 2010, and the company has been striving to make better use of its space as a way to contribute to society ever since.

“Just like alcoholic beverages contribute to making our culture and daily lives more fun, we do our social contribution aligned with the idea of making the world more entertaining,” says Lee Young-mok, vice president in charge of planning the company’s social contribution projects.

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The gallery also invites children from underprivileged families to take part in its art programs during summer vacation. Provided by the company

While regional offices work with local festivals each year to participate in cultural events in a more casual manner, headquarters decided to take a more systemic and extensive approach to not only supporting young artists, but educating art fans to contribute to making high quality artwork available and better appreciated.

“To make everyone live in a happier world,” Lee Says, “we especially provide support to youngsters with dreams for the future by giving them scholarships and chances to experience a broader range of cultural events, among other things.”



A helping hand

Last year, the Hite Collection gallery set up an annual program to discover talented young artists and provide them with an outlet to present their work by using a sponsorship program first tried in 2013. To avoid the usual selection process that could include artists competing with earlier pieces from their portfolios to make themselves more presentable, the gallery decided to try a new approach.

It asks about six artists who have established themselves on the art scene to recommend one or two young artists with potential.

“It is a way to communicate between one generation and another,” says the gallery in a release. “For those young artists who have little experience in exhibiting their work, we include interviews of them and the artists who recommended them so that the audience can have a better understanding about how each and every one pictured their artistic agendas in their works.”

Usually, the recommendations are made in October and November, and those chosen participate in an exhibition that starts in February.

The Hite Collection gallery also hosts a talk with its curators and participating artists to help visitors get more behind-the-scenes information about the displayed works and have their questions answered.

It recently held a group talk with artists participating in this year’s exhibition, titled “Our Awesome Moments.” During the two-hour session hosted at the gallery late last month, artists shared their views on their works.

This year’s exhibition emphasized artists who focus on painting. Thirteen artists ranging in age from their mid-20s to early 40s shared stories on canvas that they have heard or happenings they have seen in their daily lives.

“It is hard to differentiate [one] painting style or another as Korean style and global trends have been along the same lines, especially under circumstances where young artists are surrounded by similar images in their everyday lives,” said the gallery.

“These artists have thought that everything they see is already in the form of images or could become a sort of image, and they tried to read into these images.”



Opportunities for neighbors

Besides giving local artists the chance to present their best work, the foundation operating the company’s gallery also takes the initiative in communicating with people living near the gallery about how to appreciate art.

Considering that Gangnam District, where the Hite Collection is located, is known as gallery heavy, the foundation attempts to encourage residents to go to art galleries. It works with the Gangnam District Office, which operates a gallery-visiting program. Hite Collection joined the program last year. Locals come to Hite Collection each time it holds an exhibition, and they receive guided tours by curators and other lectures related to the theme of each exhibit.

The program is popular with housewives and retired people in the area who want to expand their appreciation for art.

“It is a program that any other district might have a hard time planning, as they don’t seem to have so many galleries,” says Choi Young-mun, who started participating in the program after he recently retired.



Children learn about classics

To provide underprivileged children with more exposure to a variety of cultural events, the company works with many childcare centers across the country. As a result, children have gotten chances to go to art exhibitions and classical concerts, events that otherwise might not have been available to them.

Aligned with the Dream Start program commissioned under the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Hite Collection gallery helps young students improve their knowledge and communication skills through art.

Since the gallery is located in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, it works mostly to benefit underprivileged children in the area. It runs programs during the summer vacation so more students have an opportunity to participate. The gallery’s curators and local artists collaborate to plan the art curriculum, which includes producing and appreciating works of art. The program targets about 20 students in fourth to sixth grade at a time. Classes are offered two to three times a week for two weeks.

For students who want to delve more deeply into the world of art and even have a career in the field, the cultural foundation has cooperated with ChildFund Korea since last year. It provides financial help for talented students so that they can get extensive education.

“Thanks to the support from the company, I was able to continue working on painting and win awards in national-level competitions,” says Kim Min-kyu, a beneficiary of the program.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [lee.sunmin@joongang.co.kr]

The “Our Awesome Moments” exhibition runs through June 5 at Hite Collection gallery in Gangnam District, southern Seoul. The gallery is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It is closed on Sundays and holidays. Admission is free. To get to the gallery, go to Cheongdam station, subway line No. 7, exit 14. For more information about the exhibition, go to www.hitecollection.com or call (02) 3219-0271.

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