The New Workers Art Troupe

Artists: Zhang Huan (Initiator),Qu Yuanfang, Xu Duo, Wang Dezhi, Jiang
Location: Tongxin School, Picun Village, Jinzhan Township, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100018, China
Year of completion: 2002
Researcher: Dan Wang

Picun used to be a village situated on the outskirts of northeastern Beijing, near Capital International Airport, but now it is considered part of Beijing city. Due to slow development and relatively low-rent housing, Picun is an ideal place for migrant residency. Only 1,400 local people live in Picun, while the migrant population numbers about 10,000 to 20,000. The related facilities such as rental housing and shops are also increasing, and there are currently about 205 factories and other enterprises.

The New Workers Art Troupe is a grassroots nonprofit organization initiated by a group of migrant workers. It is committed to the local community, serving public interests through art. The team members are migrant workers who have certain talents and who are willing to devote their spare time to other workers. Since its establishment on May 1, 2002, the Troupe has left its footprints in a wide range of places, including construction sites, factories, universities, various enterprises, schools for migrant children, and communities where migrant workers reside. It founded the Tongxin Experimental School for migrant children’s education in 2005. It also established a library that offers free book lending as well as training in computer skills.

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The Troupe has performed more than 500 times, reaching out directly to audiences totaling more than 100,000 people, and has gained a lot of attention and praise from both migrant workers and the general public. Since the establishment of the art troupe, it has published seven albums of original songs, several documentary films and drama works, and planned the Spring Festival Gala especially for migrant workers. The aim of the Troupe is to provide a voice for migrant workers—to call out with their songs and defend their rights through art.

The New Workers Art Troupe has created several entities and enterprises on the basis of social practice, including Tongxin Experimental School, Migrant Worker Family, Museum of Workers, New Workers Theatre, Tongxin Reciprocity Shop, Cinema of Migrant Worker, and others. It is dedicated to building a cultural brand for migrant workers, to depict and promote the workers’ healthy, active, and enterprising spirit. Various programs and worker-initiated activities help workers to establish their new self-identities and enrich their leisure lives.

In 2008, the initiators of the New Workers Art Troupe spontaneously established the Migrant Worker Culture and Art Museum. The museum is a small courtyard, little more than 100 square meters, and consists of a projection room, an exhibition room, a library, and a theater. This museum has become the cultural center of villages in the city between the 5th Ring Road and the 6th Ring Road of Beijing. On the one hand, the aim of the museum is to record the history and culture of migrant workers via material objects, written materials, files, and so forth. On the other hand, it entrenches itself in the communities of Picun village, providing services aimed at the direct requirements of local inhabitants in their cultural lives. Fostering the cohesion of recognition and promoting communication among community members are considered the key emphases of its work.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency