Falling in Love with Taipei’s Treasure Hill Light Festival, 2021

April 24, 2021

Treasure Hill Artist Village

If you’re looking for an immersive art experience in the Taipei area, look no further!

In the Gongguan District, on a slope overlooking the Xindian River, an artist community glows. Treasure Hill Artist Village is the very embodiment of Taiwan’s wrestling contradictions. It carries the past into the future, consciously reflecting upon a rich history dating back to the early settlement of the Taipei Basin. Each year the village holds a Light Festival, this year running from March 27th – May 9th. I don’t know about you, but if ever I hear the words “artist” and “village” strung together I feel an instant magnetic pull so powerful it’s impossible to resist. So I set out this month to experience Treasure Hill in all its shimmering glory! I didn’t know what to expect, and certainly did not anticipate falling in love the way I did, inspired to return mere days after my first visit to explore more deeply, to know more fully.

Perched precariously alongside one of Taipei’s oldest Buddhist temples, Treasure Hill’s existence is a testament to Taiwan’s layered past. Originally beginning as a small settlement of immigrants from China during the Qing Dynasty, it was transformed into a military outpost during the Japanese colonial era, and after WWII was repurposed as a temporary residence for incoming Kuomintang military veterans (source). In the 1970s the community grew as extended family built additions, eventually leading to attention from the government, who deemed the structures illegal and began seeking new plans for the hillside. After years of push-back from the community, however, the settlement was granted protected status, and in 2010 became the designated artist village it is today (source).

Some of the long-time residents still remain, and can be seen taking their daily strolls, tending to the garden or hanging laundry (i.e. living life). Other residents are artists, who apply for temporary placement ranging from three to six months, including international artists. This means that every few months and every year there are new exhibitions to behold.

Today the settlement at Treasure Hill is home to a collection of artist studios, cafés, a youth hostel and the Taipei Media School. Thanks to renovations and updates, Treasure Hill is a place where historic meets trendy, where old becomes new again, re-imagined and re-created through the eyes of its resident creatives. Magic emerges from this tension and is only enhanced by the labyrinthine passageways and corridors. This is a place made up entirely, it seems, of the inviting alleys I have come to love Taiwan for. There are so many nooks and crannies to discover and explore, inspiring a childish delight that reminded me of being at Meow Wolf (granted, not as trippy). Around each corner and behind each open door lies some new hidden treasure, waiting to be found, longing to be enjoyed.

The views aren’t bad either.

Treasure Hill is incredibly alive for such a sleepy village. Time slows down here, yet the palpably relaxed pace of life is matched only by the buzzing of artistic energy and sustained creation. The entire hillside is itself the canvas upon which the artists construct, all of it a living, breathing ecosystem of thought and life.

The artworks this year revolve around themes of home, space/time, land and coexistence. The light festival installations use light as a medium to explore these concepts. Below I have selected a few of my favorite discoveries, hopefully just the right amount to whet your appetite without giving away too much. (I had to really restrain myself on pictures for this post. You’re probably laughing, like yeah right, look at all these, but you should see the unused volume!)

SPOILER ALERT!!!! If you think you’re going to make it to the festival this year and you don’t want to ruin it for yourself, skip to the next section. If not, then enjoy my photos below of the light exhibitions. I made sure to arrive well before dusk to get an experience of the installations in daylight as well as after dark. I made some gifs so hopefully you can feel the vibes. Click on the image to see titles, descriptions and artist info.

There are many more installations and exhibits to enjoy, and my photos represent only a few. The beauty of Treasure Hill is that there’s always more to discover. It represents a vital undercurrent of society, a life force inspiring thoughtful existence and intentional movement towards growth. It is somewhere you can believe in magic. This is a place I will keep coming back to, watching it evolve and change along with Taipei, an ode to the city’s relationship with and to itself.

Can I kick it?

Yes you can!

There are several wonderful places to stop for refreshments or to pick up that gift and card for that thing you gotta go to later. Here’s a little list for you <3 (Of course, if you’d rather ramble on, Treasure Hill’s location next to NTU & NTNU means that there are a lot of great places to eat in the immediate vicinity!)

Tadpole Point Café

Serving coffee, drinks & homemade cuisine!

Open Wed & Thurs 1-8 pm,
Sat & Sun 11-9 pm.

Mistyvox

“Arts, tunes & Booze”

They have craft beer and a lovely outdoor patio with a view (and a discoball).

Didn’t see any hours listed, and couldn’t find them on maps. But the photo is proof.

Autumn Red Belly Room
秋紅肚房

They serve coffee, tea, pastries & Taiwanese fare (e.g. meat & rice, omelettes, braised beef). Also, SO CUTE!

Open Thurs & Fri 11-6 pm,
Sat & Sun 11-7 pm.

The Attic Hostel

Need a place to stay? Can’t get close enough to the art? Want to see what it’s like to live in an artist village? You’re in luck ’cause there’s a hostel right smack dab in the village center! However (*sigh*), you have to be an artist or in some way a participant in Treasure Hill goings-on in order to apply. Yes, an application is required to stay here. It’s regulated that way to maintain the artistic integrity of the village, which I guess I can get behind (I want to stay though!!!).

Facilities are simple but clean. They have wifi, a kitchen, dining room, laundry room, common room, balcony with a hard-to-beat view, and a lovely gift shop on the ground floor (where I bought not one but four yes four books), perfect for souvenir shopping!

No. 40 Select

Souvenirs, prints, various art & books! I didn’t get the chance to go in here, it wasn’t open, but I did peer through the windows a bit too much.

Open Tue – Sun 11 – 6 pm.

Treasure Hill Cultural Village Baocun Ganzai Store 寶藏巖文化村–寶村柑仔店

This one is actually outside the entrance to Treasure Hill Village. I didn’t get a picture, I apologize. But the café sits on the other side of this wonderful garden, in a particularly cozy spot. They serve drinks & Taiwanese fare and have a lovely outdoor patio.

Open 11-8 pm, closed on Mondays.

Hours, Events & Other Things to Note

Treasure Hill is open to visitors (free admission) Tuesday – Sunday 11 am to 10 pm. Exhibitions close at 6.

Each studio holds its own open hours, and these vary quite widely. The directory at the entrance displays hours for each studio. They all will also have a sign at the door set to “open” or “do not disturb”. Don’t be afraid to open doors – you will be rewarded an often quite intimate opportunity to experience someone’s personal gallery.

The Light Festival has an Opening Reception in the Picnic Field, with live bands & a market (I was sadly unaware of this, but just try and stop me next year!). This year featured local artists 葉穎 Leaf Yeh, 十九兩樂團 Nighteentael, Little Shy on Allen Street, 王榆鈞與時間樂隊 Yujun Wang & Times, 詹森淮 Senhuai, 春麵樂隊 ChuNoodle, and 吳志寧Wu Zhi-Ning. Listening as I type, and loving it.

The village holds various performances, workshops and guided tours.
Check the website or social media for information:
Website: https://www.artistvillage.org/index.php
IG: @taipeiartistvillage
Facebook: /artthav/

Getting There

Treasure Hill is just a 10 minute walk from Gongguan MRT station on the green line. From there walk south on Roosevelt Road, turn right down Lane 196 and keep walking straight along Lane 230. You will pass the Treasure Hill Guanyin Temple.

Address: No. 2, Alley 14, Lane 230, Section 3, Tingzhou Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, 100
100台北市中正區汀州路三段230巷14弄2號

I’m dying to know what you think! Would you go here? Have you been? Do you want to see MORE PHOTOS??? Let me know in the comments below <3

What are your thoughts?