Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Total Package: Total Arts Festival Cafe TAF

This is my spotlight piece written about TAF, featured in NEH magazine

     Tucked away in the uphill streets of Sinchon lies a very special place, a hidden Seoul-mine. An art collective, cultural space, energy-pumping (while still relaxed), green, ‘secret’ hide out. When thinking art or creativity, many venture to the alleys of Hongdae or the displays of Kundae, the classic hotspots. Total Arts Festival (TAF) is a space that independently takes creative art-ism into its own realm, field, and notion.
     Located outside of Sinchon station, at the top of a hill and cushioned within apartment shadows, discovering this place is similar to a glided adventure, and it’s just minutes away from the soju-marinated streets of Hongdae. Small restaurants guide you along and once you find TAF, your soul makes a mental map.
when you walk in (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     TAF was running in minds and on paper a little less than a year ago. The inspiring force behind it is the talented and beautiful Dori Lee and Mr. Sung-min Kim. Dori is wise beyond her years, a lover of art; in all its fields (manipulated descriptions and overwhelming definitions). She is an environmentalist, artist, traveller, student (of the world), vegetarian, and a training pole dance instructor. On one of these monsoon rain-ridden nights, I found myself in the special TAF sharing a hot coffee with this peaceful, innovative woman.
     “I want to not be too indie, [this is an] artist collective, easy place for those who love art, having fun- events, workshops-[I want] customers to enjoy their time and have good comfort food and drinks. I want the customers to have fun,” she takes a sip of coffee “...enjoy.”
collection of local works and the red wall! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     She speaks of this cultural art collective space with both comfort and humility. Dori is the force behind TAF and her expansive mind has clearly touched everything in the cafe. The space has been manipulated into an apartment, her father (a carpenter) constructed the bar, and all the furniture inside is donated from loved ones.
     “I want to keep it natural and honest.” Dori says. Part of the attraction and energy is the bare honesty of the place. The mix-matched chairs and tables create a beautiful ensemble with the ever-changing artwork on the walls.
at the bar (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     TAF is putting ardent effort into being as green as possible, which is one of the passions and missions pumping behind this place. Heavily involved in being Eco-friendly, Dori’s love of the environment is clear. Right by the door, there are pots of herbs that appear in the innovative menu.
     “When we make food, I don’t want to use chemicals, [I want to] keep it natural.”
cheesy spinach dip garnished with crushed walnuts (photo taken by Dori)
     Most of the menu is organic and Dori states that TAF is continuously putting efforts towards getting everything that way. The novel “comfort” foods TAF offers include items such as a cheesy spinach dip garnished with crushed walnuts, and their signature burger that comes with onion chutney, pumpkin salad mixed with earl gray soaked raisins. Dori is a scientist when it comes to the “drink lab.” She is always thinking up new ideas for drinks that she as a customer “would like” and feels would appeal to all types of customers.
TAF's signature burger with onion chutney (photo taken by Dori)
mixed greens and pumpkin with balsamic vinaigrette;
topped with nuts, tomatoes, and earl grey tea soaked raisins (photo taken by Dori)
caprese baguette, mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, fig compote,
and topped with balsamic (photo taken by Dori 
     The coffee soju cocktail is a wonderful balance between caffeine and alcohol. The mixture blends so beautifully you feel like you’re drinking a sweet cup of chilled Americano, but with a bonus head rush. Imagine running a marathon and instead of Gatorade, ice cold coffee. The drink goes down smoothly and tastes good enough to have every morning, and night...and as a snack.
local artwork (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     Dori is remarkably honest about the challenges she faces and has faced through owning TAF. This isn’t her first project or “baby.” In fact, she has been involved in eco-friendly public relations. She doesn’t coat anything in glitter and gold, not even with turpentine. Being innovative and creating both artistic and comforting dishes for the menu takes about a month to prepare and she documents her struggles with posts like, “creating a system.” Dori took on two good friends to help with this particular challenge and says she’s always learning.
     “I love to share ideas, but when it comes to business, I feel like I can do [it all] by myself. Normally, [when I’m] in deep [into something like] art or teaching (doing things with others) is a hard-to-accept concept-(I’m) still learning, so I’m pretty happy.”
     As an artist, Dori (who majored in ceramics) is accustomed to taking on projects independently. There is also the aspect of doing something truly unique and new in Korea. Seoul is "trending" with "indie" clubs and "art" exhibitions.
     “Indie-culture, [I] feel like something is missing. [I] don’t want to bring a lack of perfection. [I don’t want to leave here] feeling like something is missing.”
     An art and cultural space as open and progressive as TAF is intimidating. Of all the challenges, creating menus, finances, etc, there is the hope that customers will be on the same page, or even in the same book!
     “I hope customers can understand a “cultural” space. My motto, in my life, the most important thing is experience. So why not try everything? Customers, do like me, try like me!” With enthusiasm Dori shares her beliefs and being a part of her passion, you are motivated and dare I say, driven.
     TAF is a place that really aims to promote all forms of art- “Life, living is art.” There have been numerous events hosted there that truly aim to create progression and art in all forms. There has already been a magic show, interchanging art displays, and a dating mixer. The art adorning the walls have been knitted-ware, paintings, and much more. Dori urges and supports new work to come and be shared. Her openness to art comes from her passions, and experiences.
     “After living abroad in Guam, I met and learned a lot about and from other cultures. I don’t want to box anything.”
interior by the stairs (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     This cafe also has live musicians, and there are rumors circulating about a live nude painting event, ECO classes, and maybe pole dancing. A green peace fund raiser may also be in the works where can artists donate their talent! cafe is pushing all sorts of barriers and challenging a lot of norms, it is a haven.
     “My goal, my life goal is to be exposed to the world, I want to be creative.” Dori cheerily and genuinely explains. Listening to what she has done in her young life, inspiration is impossible to avoid.
TAF urges, supports, and embraces art, in all its forms. The heart of this place is fully open to broadcast all art.
     “I like to create things, the most important thing in life is experience and TAF is a dream. My artwork is my life.” And with that, Dori puts down her beer and as the empty canvases hang just blocks away on dusty walls, you can’t agree more.
photo taken by VeganBeats)

TAF (Total Art's Festival) bar/cafe
33-12 Nogosan-dong, Mapo-gu, 121806 Seoul
Sinchon green line 2, exit number 5
Take a right at the first side street and walk up the hill for about 5 minutes, TAF will be on your left!
Korean blog
Twitter page
Facebook page

1 comment: