Quietly nestled in the western suburbs of Yinchuan in Xixia District, close to Ningxia University, lies an unassuming factory complex that bears a striking resemblance to the famous 798 Art District in Beijing. However, unlike 798 which has developed into a mature hub for art and commerce, 801 Creative Park (801创意园) is only just starting to see the light of day. Once the home of a polyester and diesel engine factory, 801's red brick warehouse-style buildings lay abandoned and neglected until 2009, when the government realised that these 4000+ square metres of unused real-estate may have the potential to boost the city's creative profile and spur on the development of its creative sector.
Quietly attracting businesses
Today, 801 is only just starting to attract businesses and most of the buildings still look derelict and abandoned. A spooky silence and lack of people characterise this complex during day time hours, but graffiti on the walls and building equipment perched on the pavements signal that something is happening here, quietly and slowly, but nonetheless happening. As a city with a small population compared to other major urban centres in China, Yinchuan's art and creative scene is limited; a thriving art zone on the same scale as the ones in Beijing or Shanghai is therefore unlikely in this small provincial capital. Recognising these limits, the local government is therefore focusing on attracting a wider range of companies and businesses from software development companies to animation production companies, live music venues and restaurants to art galleries and performance centres.
Despite its slow pace forward, 801 has seen some positive developments within its walls: a major breakthrough came in 2011 when the Today Art Museum in Beijing signed a contract, promising to invest 100 million RMB to build a 1500 square metre replica of its Beijing museum in Yinchuan. No specific date for the museum's completion has been announced as of yet, so only time will tell if this ambitious project will actually materialise into a full-fledged modern art museum.
Thus far, two venues in particular have injected the life and soul into the area: Tongguan Livehouse and Music Field, two relatively new music venues which regularly put on live shows, steadily drawing Ningxia's youth out of the city's smoky pool halls and KTV parlours. Other businesses already set up there include a barbeque restaurant, a dance school, a yoga centre and two internet cafes among others. According to reports, a total of 74 businesses have signed up to open shop there in the near future, including a number of hotels, bars, restaurants, museums and more.
What will become of this complex in the west of the city remains to be seen. Large-scale urban development projects are propping up all over Yinchuan and the city's skyline is littered with cranes and skeletons of future buildings. The rate of construction in Yinchuan is quite startling given Ningxia's reputation as one of the poorest provinces in the country. The vast majority of construction projects are however geared towards building new housing estates, so it will therefore be interesting to see whether urban developers, investors and government support will see this reconstruction project through to the end. With much of the basic infrastructure already in place, its close proximity to the province's major university and public interest clearly on the rise, 801 Creative Park has the potential to shift the direction of Yinchuan's insatiable thirst for construction into one that values and appreciates the arts.
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Keywords: 801 creative park Yinchuan Tongguan livehouse Yinchuan Today Art Museum Yinchuan music field yinchuan art district Yinchuan
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