LIFESTYLE

Residents in the Old Town had enjoyed the protection of a divine dragon; they chalked up the peace, the prosperity, and the cultural glory that defined their community to the auspices of the majestic deity. But the boom was short-lived: politicians of the time followed only the dollar sign and in their greed, they sold out to a road-widening project that had promised tremendous profit. The project was to ostensibly open up the Old Town and drive investments in.

The area’s characteristic cultural flair, consequently, became a sacrificial offering on the altar. The invasion of the bulldozers, roaring machineries had disrupted the consistent, positive divine energy from the dragon and he took off, never looking back. The Old Town, located in Tainan, was the earliest city in Taiwan to taste opulence; and since the departure of the dragon, the town went under. The hard realities that the gold prospectors faced, were haphazardly-planned infrastructure assignments and construction corruption scandals. The Old Town ended up with eyesore, riddled with vacant buildings not yet completely torn down. The walls and the fences were the worse for wear. For more than a decade, the folks in Old Town were stuck in a fix, tasting a bitter pill. But the blossom of art began to take root in an unexpected fashion, and the Old Town was reborn. The art-based community revival project kicked off: art, in its multifold grace, started to dominate the landscape of the community with beautiful prints, photographs, and installation art pieces. The decaying walls became the best-ever canvass to landscapists, a stage-without-boundary to artists, and art gallery to the bards. The Old Town was given many new faces, bewitching tourists with amazing appearances that can be altered by daylight, darkness, the casual brush of sunrays or the whiff of shadows. They are the illusionist of the art street on Hai-an Road in Tainan.

The spirit of renaissance began to spread like wildfire, inspiring many more connoisseurs to follow, bringing in their handicraft, music, barista art, and creative alcoholic drinks to the Old Town. Shenlong Street, literally, the street of "Divine Dragon," which crosses Hai-an Road, now radiates a very Taiwan-like poise and grace. The quaint adobes have been given a makeover to restore its antique beauty, and some of them have been remodeled into saloons, where the creative professionals swap brain juices. The art street on Hai-an Road bears witness to the decline and rise of the Old Town, and tells of a miracle that only art can inspire.