Curation and Inspiration - a Conversation with Museum Director, Alfred Weidinger

Neatly dressed, wearing his signature mustard yellow specs, Alfred sipped his cappuccino and quickly put us at ease with his disposition. He was both professorial and unassuming as he described his experience as Director of the MdbK Leipzig Museum of Fine Art. What quickly became evident was this: Leipzig is not only the location of this museum but also, its history and character are his inspiration.

When Dr. Alfred Weidinger became the Director in 2017, he was tasked with the challenge of infusing the museum with a dose of innovation to make the space a destination. What has emerged from this challenge is a story of experiential design punctuated by historical references, “pushing” tastes, and creating a space of art the represents Leipzig.

…and Leipzig has a fascinating story. Some of what Leipzig is best known for:

  • Trade Fairs: Leipzig known as the “gateway to the West” during GDR (East German) days

  • Johann Sebastian Bach’s home until his death in 1750

  • A major publishing city before WWII (often called “buch-stadt” i.e. book city)

  • An art genre: New Leipzig School in painting

  • Gose style beer

It’s no wonder the city’s history is Alfred’s main source of inspiration. He says, “every day I open a new page in a history book. Every day since I arrived is a new page.”His approach to the museum experience is both elevated and very human. His priorities also reflect this approach. He’s invited Tomas Saraceno to do an installation, visits local artist studios (often 3-4 in week), and is frequently the first person from a museum to knocked on their door. He aims to push the tastes of local Leipzig patrons while also creating a space where they feel free and comfortable.

Alfred Weidinger

Art: Andy Warhol
Leipzig Museum Atrium

What are your first impressions of Leipzig?

It’s a really young city and a lot of people have a sense of doing great things to move forward, not backwards. There’s huge power and huge potential.

This is a special city. Today, it's the fastest growing city in Germany. Leipzig was always a very independent city in terms of it’s thinking. It hosted a major a trade fair during the GDR, a place where people from both sides would gather. But even thousands of years before, in the middle ages, Leipzig was an important intersection point for trade. It's always been at the intersection.

Even today Leipzig conserves this feeling: Leipzig is always a little bit different.

How do you think about this mentality when you’re planning for the future of the museum?

The museum is a really great space and we need to give this space to the people. We are in a wonderful building, a great construction, and amazing architecture so I especially want to push the young artists and encourage them to think in large dimensions.

We have six terraces and halls that are 16 meters high! This space brings a lot of possibilities and potential. I know we’ll have the opportunity to show really influential artists—who are used to dealing with the scale. But I also want to give the young ones the chance to deal with the space. We're not New York and we're not London where you have to exhibit only the highest level. Here you can let the museum also be a laboratory.

I also want to share contemporary art. It's interesting, the artists in the GDR had knowledge of what's happening in the Western part of the world, but only from books. Everything was in black and white on a page.

Leipzig Museum

“The museum is a really great space and we need to give this space to the people.”

How do you balance being a museum of the city while also trying to push tastes as you mention with contemporary art?

I have to think about everything and everyone because we need to take care of the people who are living here—their needs, and what they want to see. But on the other hand, I have to teach them something, to attract them, and to push them a little bit (even if it doesn't always feels so nice). I have people who say "I don't like this. This is not art." It takes a while, but my aim is tolerance. It might seem like a low level, but if you get tolerance for contemporary art, you won.

I love that, taking pieces of inspiration from history and tying them into the museum. is there a particular place in Leipzig where you find inspiration?

I really do get inspiration from the history of the city. Just a few weeks ago someone told me in the GDR time there was a cinema in the train station—a 24 hour cinema. You just walked in and saw a movie for free. Isn't that great! This got me thinking about the space here [in the atrium]. I want to make 24 hour art spaces within this part of the museum.

And talking to people. I talk to and visit studios every week. Three to four artists every week. And this is very interesting because I get to see all mediums, genders, and ages. On Tuesday, I visited an artist in the countryside who is 88 years old. The stories he shared with me are so interesting and provide so much inspiration.

We have to take care of these people because in history, they were almost forgotten. In 1989 everyone felt this common sense: we are a new country this is great with lots of potential. Artists in this time worked for a few years really intensely. They made lots of works because they felt so powerful, but it took a turn and was a really sad time. Very few artists were able to swim on the top of the wave, most crashed down. When I visit with older artists, sometimes I am often first person from a museum in these 30 years who has knocked on the door.

How do you think about your role in this?

letter from artist in Leipzig

I try to do something for them. When you walk into the lobby by the front desk, there are four paintings on the wall. The painter is a 87 year old Jewish man, so he was completely forgotten. He lived here, and it was not an easy life here in Leipzig. He left the city after the fall of the wall because he felt there were more opportunities elsewhere. But no one was took care of them.

When I met him, we had a really nice talk. He was so grateful for the visit that he decided to give the museum one of his paintings as a gift. Later, he wrote me a letter that said, ‘I really like what you're doing and it's better to stand on two legs so I'll send you another one (painting).’ He sent me four and asked the people of Leipzig choose which to keep. For a while we had an iPad where visitors would vote to decide. There were thousands of participants!

For you personally, How did you find yourself at this museum in particular?

My career in art started in my childhood. I great up on Lake Attersee, a small lake near Salzburg where Gustav Klimt spent almost 16 years in the summer and then studied art history and archaeology in Salzburg. Later, I went to The Albertina in Vienna and focused on the work of Oskar Kokoschka and Gustav Klimt. I worked for more than 20 years in Vienna, but when this position opened here at MdbK I thought, let’s give it a try!

Leipzig and Vienna are linked. Here in Leipzig, we have an important painter: Max Klinger, but he is also a key figure for Austrian art. Klinger believed in the idea of a "Gesamtkunstwerk" (total work of art), adopted from Richard Wagner (also from Leipzig). He transformed the idea of the “total work of art” into art itself. This was new to the Viennese, and they appreciated this ideology: everything as art. As a result, Klinger was invited often to show his work and today, many important works from Klinger are owned by Austrian Institutions and only on loan here in Leipzig.


ART AT LEIPZIG MUSEUM

If you find yourself in Leipzig, walk into the atrium and up through the museum and think about more than the art you see: consider the history, the city, and the space as you explore. The space itself is quite magical and there is no ignoring the architecture. Designed by Hufnagel / Putz / Rafaelian, the museum boasts six massive atriums and unique interiors.

Stay in the know: Be sure take a look at Dr. Weidinger own body of work as photographer and art historian, found also on his personal website.

Dr. Alfred Weidinger on Instagram & Twitter

MdbK Museum on Instagram & Twitter

 

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Ivan & the Parazol on Communication, Hard Work and a Bit of Magic

"We aren’t trying to sound like anything else in particular. When people hear me they know I'm not British or American, but that's okay. I'm from here—from Budapest."

Budapest-based exciting and honest rock band, Ivan & the Parazol has a sound that energizes crowds throughout Europe When we ask them about what makes the band both fun and successful they describe a mix of open communication, hard-work, and little magic.

Communication: A close knit group, the four-part band says they are successful because they alway face issues face on…“we figured that you’re going to have problems (probably a lot of problems) either musically or personally. But if you are man enough to talk about something and put it on the table you’ll find a solution. That’s the secret. Just talk about the problems...talk a lot.” The past year has had a new set of challenges for Ivan & the Parazol with a band member having to step aside from the band. They describe the first shows without him as incredibly tough, even “traumatic.” But they have been able to use the emotion as fuel for their creative process - which in turn has meant sold out shows and an upcoming record. This new album was recorded East-West Studios and marks a milestone for their sound. “It should have been a really sad record because we just lost our bass player, but it’s a relief record. It’s ‘Exotic Post-Traumatic’.”

Hard Work: Ivan & The Parazol describes bands from Budapest as have a common work ethic. “The bands from here know how to work hard…know how to stuff you shit in a car to travel hours to a shitty festival. We learn how to work and to achieve great things. I’m not saying that other bands from more established countries aren’t working hard, but it’s different.”The Rock & Roll scene in Budapest is close-knit. “We all know each other, are friends, and a little competitive in a good way.” Can Budapest be the heart of the touring music in Europe? Ivan & The Parazol certainly hopes so. "Bands who play in Budapest, leave thinking this place is amazing (which it is). So, we hope Budapest will become an exciting add-on to all big tours!"

Magic: Even the first time they jammed together, they say, “it was magic. We were writing songs in 5 minutes. The last song of the first record was made after one or two months of us knowing each other - magic did happen. The sound chose us, not the other way around.” And it continues to work this way. In New York City? Go experience the magic ourself! Ivan & The Parazol will be in New York Wednesday October 3th - get your tickets here.



 
ivan & the parazol band
Takuya Isagwa and the creation of Japan's hottest new fashion label: mister it.

“Do you know the Japanese concept, Iki? There’s no translation, and it’s very hard to explain. But it’s a part of our culture and style.”

Here’s what we learned. Iki is to be cool, but understated. A small detail. Human, subtle, but surprising. “It’s not a big oh wow, but it’s a small approving head nod.” When you realize it, it’s really special.

iki.JPG

"Women often hold a baby over the arm, so this detail is placed so that the baby’s eye will catch the mark. It's Iki."

Takuya Isagawa’s work is really special. We met at his studio, in a building filled with creative-types, to learn about his journey to launch his fashion label mister it.

Takuya’s story as a designer began as a young boy in Osaka.

As is often the case for a younger sibling, admiration for his older brother and a subsequent introduction to the world of sneakers quickly grew into a deep passion for fashion. “When I was six years old, I tried to dress like my brother. At first I just wore cool sneakers and a cap. But it wasn’t long before I wanted to make something myself.” 

As soon as he made the decision to be a designer, he had a singular drive: to study in Paris and to work for his favorite designer, Maison Martin Margiela.

He did just that.

Takuya finished his fashion studies in Paris and won first prize for his final collection. Even so, he was worried because he did not think he was proficient enough at French to land the dream job.

But he didn’t let that stop him.

He enlisted a friend to help him prepare for the interview. “I memorized the presentation in perfect French” and he landed the job he’d always wanted at Maison Martin Margiela. And a dream it was! Takuya told us that the team at Maison Martin Margiela felt like family, and always welcomed him even though he admits, “I still couldn’t speak French well." 

When he eventually left the job to launch his label, he wanted to show his gratitude to his teammates. Collection 00 from mister it. was not for the public, but rather was designed for ten specific people - a gift to his former colleagues. Each piece was thoughtfully crafted specifically for each person. The four images below feature examples from this collection. Takuya describes these as (1) an outfit to highlight one of his friend's tattoos, (2) an integrated eyeglass chain for a forgetful friend, (3) an ironic McDonalds joke, and (4) pants that make walking impossible. He explains the pants saying, "when I was working at Maison Martin Margiela, I was running all the time. But for the launch of my brand, I designed pants for myself as a symbol. I wanted to stand still so I could simply watch and be grateful."

 
 
designer clothing

Takuya's inspiration always come from those right next to him, from the people he knows. He describes, “the importance of this work is for more than just beauty. My idea is to make things for real people. The brand’s concept is this simple.” The pieces combine of functionality with design and put the person wearing them at the center. He intends to make pieces that will be cherished. "My hope is that these clothes can last for a very long time. If people take care of them, they can last almost forever. These are things you keep wearing and even pass down through your family."

You can find mister it. products in multiple locations in Japan! His pieces are available at EDITION, n id a deux, VISIT FOR and ocaille

Please take a peek at their website, misterit.jp - we guarantee that Takuya Isagawa and his label, mister it., will soon be well known names in the fashion world.


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Salvation through Street Art: a conversation with Judith de Leeuw
 Photo provided by Judith

Photo provided by Judith

Two years ago, Dutch artist Judith de Leeuw spotted a street corner in Amsterdam that captured her attention. The location was perfect. It was the wall of Boulangerie Le Mortier, at the corner of Vijzelgracht and Fokke Simonszstraat, right in Amsterdam’s Central district. She created a solemn portrait of a Amy Winehouse.

The wall was covered in ugly graffiti, and the owner of the building was more than happy for Judith to paint over it with a new creation. This wall was the perfect opportunity to express herself in a public space, right in the center of the city she loves.

This new creation changed her life.

Over beers at a little cafe in central Amsterdam, we spoke with Judith about the inspiration for this mural, how it transformed her career, and why she thinks art saved her life.

 Photo provided by Judith

Photo provided by Judith

When did start making art?

I’ve been drawing portraits since I was four years old. I still have a portrait I drew of my father when I was five years old. As I got older, I started doodling in class. I’d always get poor scores on my Biology tests because the teacher didn’t like my drawings. To be honest, no one really liked my drawings back then.

How did you start doing graffiti?

Around 13 years old I became a pretty big problem child. I was smoking too much weed and at one point I just stopped going to school. I became more and more rebellious until I found graffiti. I found a paint shop around the corner called HENXS, which I still visit every week. I was so nervous at first, because I thought graffiti was something associated with criminals and aggressive behavior. I was so nervous when I walked in that my hands were shaking. In the end I chose a color that doesn’t work well at all. I chose pink and painted arrows everywhere. That was terrible and pretty shameful but oh well, you’ve got to start somewhere!

street art - judith image high res

I then found a group of friends through graffiti. All we did together was drawing, painting, and graffiti. When I look back on it, I think it saved my life. If I didn’t find graffiti I think I would have done something else that would have taken me down a bad path.

How did you go from painting arrows to creating amazing pieces all over the world?

I started studying art education and began to combine my love of portraits and graffiti. For the first time I tried making portraits with spray cans. At first it was really bad. When people see my work now they say, “how do you do that?” but they don’t know that it’s taken years of practice to get here. The past few years, I’ve been using spray cans pretty much every day and every night.

Then I did the Amy Winehouse painting. At that point in my life, I was just doing it for myself. At that time, I was just a very shy start-up. Then that portrait changed everything. It was the biggest moment of my life to have people appreciate my art for the first time.

What was the inspiration for it?

I watched the documentary on Amy Winehouse, and was listening to her music a lot. Even though she had died a few years prior, she kept coming up again and again in conversations I had. I realized that most pictures of her were when she was smiling, before she got addicted to drugs. I wanted to leave a portrait of Amy as she really was. But it was also to express my own state of mind. It was a number of things that all came together at this one focal point. It’s the first true creation from my heart and soul.

It’s crazy because I didn’t expect anyone to like it. When I finished it I thought I had messed it up, so didn’t even take a picture of it! The piece becoming famous is really weird, because I was just making something for myself.

 Photo provided by Judith

Photo provided by Judith

What’s the latest project your excited about?

Last week I had the opportunity to do a mural at Rotterdam’s Central Station. It’s really insane! I had been dreaming about doing a huge building in such a prized location. It’s weird when you dream of something for years and years and then are standing there and doing it in reality!

What’s the street art scene like in Amsterdam?

It’s pretty complicated. It’s difficult to get a wall in Amsterdam for a piece, because all of the houses are protected monuments. Mostly you have to do stuff semi-illegally, or wait years until you can get a wall in Amsterdam. As for now, Rotterdam is a much easier place to create a public art piece. When I think of street art and innovation I think of Amsterdam as the rich whining person and Rotterdam as the young playful one, throwing candy everywhere. But my best friends are here in Amsterdam, my colleagues, my best friends. A lot of my colleagues are older but I can instantly talk to them and there has never been a problem of them accepting me. I get along with them really well. That’s how you know when you belong somewhere I guess. If it wasn’t for people helping me along the way, I’m not sure it would have happened.

What are your dreams for the future?

I accomplished one of my dream one week ago at the Rotterdam Central Station!. It would be amazing to paint something in the center of Amsterdam. I mean a really big mural. I want it to be in the center. I really want that. Maybe I should do it, just like I did with the Amy Winehouse portrait.

Keep an eye out for Judith and her stunning portraits. She has a number of international plans on the agenda, so who knows - she just may be in your city! You can find her work on her site here: www.jdlstreetart.com and on Instagram.


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How to Grow, Specifically
 

Today's urban nomads want to feel at home wherever they are in the world. Ideally that includes connecting to hi-speed wifi in Bali, having the perfect pour-over in Barcelona, and the ideal co-working space in Berlin. In many ways, experiencing these comforts around the world is a beautiful thing. But when it's met with the overused formula of hipster-washing spaces (slap on some Helvetia font, crisp white decorations, and the latest food trend...avocado toast anyone), it's just not all that creative. 

There's no greater insult to creativity than the word generic. The same goes for the growth and development of creative places. And it's a trap we're falling for.

Our cities look more and more like each other and our organizations aim to feel more Google-y. We think we've cracked the code on creativity, but in reality we're more afraid of failure than ever. Today's strategies for fueling creative culture lack what makes something authentic: specificity.

When something is specific, it won't suit all tastes. And that's okay. Striving for authenticity and a celebration of what makes a place unique is daring to be creative. When you generalize culture, identity, and history, creativity is often killed along the way (among many other things). When an organization or city is growing rapidly, one of the most common fears we hear, is of losing the atmosphere that attracted them in the first place and the elements that inspire them to create.

But growth is inevitable in our favorite spots. So the question remains: how can we strategically grow while maintaining an authentic creative pulse? 

Is it possible to provide a formula for a creative place, a framework for creativity, or a template to grow creatively without becoming too generic? Can organizations, cities and services both scale and evolve while maintaining specificity? 

Yes. But it is in the process of discovery where a framework is possible, not in the implementation or output. It's about finding the specific pulse, discovering what makes a place unique, and growing with those core values in mind. It's about taking the time to first understand the nuance of the place, organization, and people, and evolving from that base.

In 2018, Place Makes visited 10 cities to get to know their creative pulse. We talked to local artists, shop owners, musicians, and organizations to learn about what makes their places unique, and why they love them. We learned that some things are quite universal: the prevalence of third spaces, affordable housing, and a group of passionate people, but the differences, the "creative essentials" for each place are culturally distinct.

Identifying creative essentials is a bit like getting to know a friend by talking to his or her dearest friends (you know, the friends who let you grow and change, but know you at your core? The ones who have seen you through all the weird phases, and helped you not only be comfortable with who you are, but also damn proud of it). Find the people who are passionate with the the place or company, and start listening. 

Here are our favorite questions to help identify an organization or city's creative essentials:

  • Where do you feel inspired?
  • How do you collaborate? What does collaboration look like here?
  • Where do you create?
  • Where do you share your work? Are there enough opportunities to share?
  • Where do you feel most at home here?
 

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How to Take a Creative Retreat in Your Own Backyard

1. Self-impose constraints

Most creatives we talk to purposely work with a set of constraints. These constraints might be time, materials, budget, a word limit, color palette, or musical scale. Create prompts and limitations at the start. Dream big, but take bite-sized steps.

2. Get bored

We live in a business culture that often promotes “appearing busy” over actual productivity. The best ideas don’t come in a crowded meeting room, sitting in front of a computer, or staring at a smartphone. Create purposeful time and space for boredom during the week. During your morning commute scribble in a notebook rather than scroll through the phone. Deny yourself easy entertainment after dinner (yes, this means Netflix), and take twenty minutes to go for a walk around the block. You’ll be surprised at what ideas come forward once you rid your mind of distractions and screens.

3. Prepare the materials

When inspiration strikes, you don’t want to be without the right tools. Simple things like large sheets of paper, sticky notes, and your favorite pen are a good place to start, but we recommend introducing a few unusual materials - you never know what they might inspire (think: found objects or an instrument you don’t yet know how to play). Over time, you’ll discover your own favorites.


4. Don’t ask for feedback…yet

Contrary to what you might have been told - rapid feedback may hold you back (at the beginning). During the first stages of creative ideation, resist the urge to immediately ask for input. Be patient with yourself, and don’t worry about editing. Improvise. Allow yourself to draw strange hypotheses that might not make sense at first. Free-write and let the stream of consciousness flow. After the ideas have had time to simmer, then you can edit and ask for feedback.


5. Find retreat

A creative retreat doesn’t necessarily mean going to cabin in the woods, becoming a hermit, or renouncing technology (although it definitely can!). Make your own daily or weekly rituals. While we like to think of famous ideators and artists as having inconsistent or zany schedules, most are very disciplined at making time and space on a daily basis to create. Start by giving yourself 30 minutes on the weekend, and build up to daily habits. You’ll be amazed at the results.


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Meet Hungary's Pop Idols: Margaret Island
 

Four years ago when Kristóf (bass) and Bálint (guitar) heard Viki sing for the first time, they fell in love with her voice. Soon after, the three founded Margret Island.  Today the band of six is one of Hungary's most famous pop-acts, selling out Budapest's largest venues. We met Kristóf and Bálint at Csendes Bar in Budapest to learn more about the Hungarian language, the music scene in Budapest, and their creative process.

 
  Photo by Peter Hencz

Photo by Peter Hencz

We've noticed that some bands in Budapest choose to sing in English. How did you decide to use the Hungarian language?

"It's interesting because our first two songs were in English but we felt the need to relate to Hungarian people more. In Hungary, people don't speak English as well and even if they understand the words, it doesn't affect you as emotionally as it could. Our first Hungarian lyrics were written by Janos Brody, a legend in Hungary in the 60s and 70s. He is a real songwriting master. He created the pop and beat music in Hungarian language and we had the pleasure to work with him.

Margaret Island Water

We Jumped In!

"There's a festival called Fishing on Orfű festival, and there was a stage in the lake! The festival is in the middle of June, so we were sweating and at the end of the gig we jumped in...it was so refreshing! We didn't have any other clothes, so we walked around wet for the rest of the day."

The Hungarian language is very difficult to sing. The way you pronounce the words is hard and it's tricky to find the fit. There are some bands that use Hungarian language in a really intense and nice way. I wouldn't even be able to translate those lyrics, because it's so complex and beautiful."

Can you tell us about the music scene in Budapest?

"Budapest is really lucky with so many concerts and clubs, the musical life here is really rich. You have concerts every day and with all these festivals, there are a lot of opportunities. We also have a big open-air venue called Budapest Park, the capacity is 10,000 and it's in the city. The space is special for all bands because they can hold their own headliner concert and it's totally different than playing at the festival because here it's just for your own. It's like a club concert at a festival stage. We've played there three times and it’s been amazing!"

“We had a pop-up show last summer on Liberty Bridge. People were picnicking and having fun on the bridge and we just started playing. Its was a really great moment!"

Do you get nervous before a show with that large of an audience?

"Absolutely! We have these little methods to transform ourselves into the stage shape. Here's what we do. First, we have to bounce up and down ten times and then we jump and we raise our hands and we just count to three and shout 'ENERGY' into the air. That's when we know it's time to begin!"

What is your process for coming up with a new song?

"Four years ago when Kristóf (bass) and Bálint (guitar) heard Viki sing for the first time, they fell in love with her voice. Soon after, the three founded Margaret Island.  Today the band of six are one of Hungary's most famous pop-acts, selling out Budapest's largest venues. We met Kristóf and Bálint at Csendes Bar in Budapest to hear their story!"

What's up next for Margaret Island?

Their next album will release this fall, and we expect a new sound for the band and a theme to believe in yourself.  Listen to their latest single, Hóvirág (i.e. snowdrop) - music video below and available where ever you listen to music!


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One Man's Quest to Bring Craft Beer to Budapest

On a crisp evening in March, we stumbled upon Hopaholic, a craft beer bar in District 7. While sitting down at the bar, we ordered two IPAs by Brew Your Mind. As we took our first sips, the man next to us leaned over asked what we thought.

We told him the truth. They were incredible.

Without so much as cracking a smile he replied saying, "That's good." Turns out this was his bar, and the beer was a collaboration he did with the guys of Brew Your Mind. He turned back around and resumed chatting with his friends, and we finished enjoying our drinks. Before we left he introduced himself as Gergely Kővári, and we set up a time to meet at his bottle shop down the road to hear the full story.

 Gergely Kővári, owner of Hopaholic + Csak a Jo Sor

Gergely Kővári, owner of Hopaholic + Csak a Jo Sor

At 9:30 p.m. the following evening we headed to Csak a Jo Sor to chat with Gergely as he closed for the evening. When Csak a Jo Sor opened seven years ago, it was the first craft beer shop in Hungary. Today, it continues to be the focal point of the beer community, and is a meeting point for brewers looking to create and collaborate. Just like Gergely’s other establishment, Hopaholic, beer bottles lined the walls of the shop. We soon learned they were only a fraction of his collection of 2,000+ unique bottles—each drank by him, each attached to a different memory. Over the next hour, we heard about some of these memories, the story behind his two establishments, and about beer culture in Hungary.

On the beer scene in Hungary

While Germans and Czechs have storied beer traditions, Gergeley tells us that Hungarian beer making originated more out of necessity than craftsmanship. He says, “There is no specific Hungarian type of beer. In the ancient past Hungarian people were nomads so it was simply much easier than to make beer than wine.”

Hungary is now much more known for wine than beer, and before Gergeley came on the scene there weren’t many choices for a brew. He asserts, ”Five years ago there was nothing. You could drink a lager, or maybe a hefeweizen.” Gergeley saw the lack of consumer choice, and turned his passion for beer into a business that is liberating taste buds and inspiring brewers across the country.

How It All Started

When asked about how Csak a Jo Sor started, Gergeley says, “I started small to see what would happen. The customers just started to come in and it grew naturally. It was the right place at the right time. I just saw that there was no business like this and that we needed it. If not me, someone else would have done it.”

Budapest Beer Bar

After seeing the success of the bottle shop, Gergeley opened the craft beer bar Hopaholic. “It was the first craft beer bar in Hungary”, he proudly says. Hopaholic has grown since those early days, and now you can choose from a rotating list of carefully selected 10 Hungarian draughts and over 200 varieties of bottles. Just a quick Google search for “craft beer in Budapest” quickly demonstrates how much this place means to beer lovers in the city.

To Gergeley, these places aren’t just business ventures. They are his life’s passion. He says, “I don't go out a lot outside of these shops. But, I am inspired at my places. I get a lot of ideas here because people come in and ask me about beers and brewing. I live my whole life here.”

The Future

Even though Gergeley has made a significant impact on the Budapest beer scene, the overall Hungarian beer market is dominated by the major brands. He says, “Craft beer only accounts for 2-3% of beer in Hungary, and most of it is here in Budapest.”

Despite these challenges, he’s determined to keep providing consumer choice and variety. He says, “The craft beer scene will keep growing but we need to find more customers. We have to grow its popularity.” Judging by his passion and two fine establishments, we certainly wouldn’t bet against him. On your next trip to Budapest, try some of his beers and we know you’ll feel the same.

When in Budapest, check out his two establishments, Hopaholic and Csak a Jo Sor. We especially recommend anything by Brew Your Mind, but try a few and decide for yourself!

Vietnam Creative Essentials
 

What is indispensable for creative life in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City?

We asked designers, musicians, writers, and artists where they feel inspired, where they collaborate, and where they create. From their answers, we have created a list of the five essentials to creative life in Vietnam.

 

Red Plastic Chairs 

Sitting on a red plastic chair, watching the world go by.

Vietnamese Coffee

Vietnamese Coffee

Fueling your day with coffee, served hot or cold

Motor Bike

A Motorbike

Finding that perfect moment when traffic is light to hop on your bike a explore a new area of the city.

Creative Cafe

A Creative Cafe

Discovering the perfect nook in a hidden cafe for a brainstorm, an impromptu gallery opening, poetry readings or concert.

Beer Bia Hoi

Bia Hoi

Keeping the creative juices flowing for happy hour and enjoying a glass of bia hoi (fresh beer) with friends.


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Welcome to Daijiro's Monochromatic World
Daijiro Smiling

My university professor once described creative power as the ability to comfortably hold two opposing ideas at the same time. By this definition, contemporary artist, Daijiro Hama, has supernatural creative power. Throughout our conversation, every point he made had a counterpoint. He explains, “there's always something good and there's always something bad. That is actually the reason why I started painting monochrome."

Painting in only two colors is liberating for Daijiro. Before he began painting in just black and white he tells us, “color started to feel like too much information. With color I started to think instead of paint. I wanted to be more pure or natural.” Self-reflection and conveying his most true self is an important part of Daijiro’s work. As he describes, his art helps him, “see the truth.”

 Daijiro begins every day at his study by painting one small sketch and taping it to the wall

Daijiro begins every day at his study by painting one small sketch and taping it to the wall

Daijiro was born in Japan, but he never felt like he fit in. ”I always felt really uncomfortable in Japan, always kind of doubting the Japanese system or some general Japanese mindset,” he explains. So, when he turned 20, he left for Canada to try the vintage fashion business - a line of work he thought would be inspiring, creative and really fun.

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He quickly found that discovering vintage goods did not fulfill his creative drive, and spent his afternoons drawing and painting in cafes - so much so that other regulars started to notice his work. Daijiro credits the people he met during this time for his artistic career. A group of friends in Toronto opened him up to the world of art. He says, “they started to take me to openings and galleries. I'm from the countryside so I didn't know about galleries or even that there are people out there who buy painting.”

outside Daijiro's Studio

Today, Daijiro lives in Kyoto. He returned to Japan six years ago, and feels comfortable here now. He is inspired by the quiet rhythm of the city (though he worries there might not be enough tension to push his work forward...remember: there is a good and a bad side of everything). He explains, “in Kyoto it’s easy to get bored in a good way. The best spot for this is Kamo River, you just go there by yourself and just don't think about anything. Just keep walking and you get an answer.” He starts every morning with a run along the river, seeking inspiration and peace in this daily routine.

To see more of Daijiro Hama’s work, visit his website: http://www.daijirohama.com and find him on Instagram


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Chicko takes on Graffiti, Interior Design and The Saigon Projects

When we asked interior designer, graffiti artist, and photographer, Nguyen Tho (artist name, Chicko), to suggest a place to meet for an interview - he proposed The Factory. We sat outside the colorful containers of this beautiful Arts Centre, drank some coffee, and continued our conversation as we walked through the exhibit inside.  

The Factory was a perfect place to meet as it represents both innovative design, in architecture and interior, as well as contemporary arts. Chicko lives in these two worlds, specifically - interior design and art.

Chicko Nguyen Portrait
 
 “The Factory aims to be a dynamic destination for art, designing innovative programs illustrating the criticality of Vietnam today.”  www.factoryartscentre.com

“The Factory aims to be a dynamic destination for art, designing innovative programs illustrating the criticality of Vietnam today.” www.factoryartscentre.com

 The Factory, Ho Chi Minh City

The Factory, Ho Chi Minh City

 

Chicko is part of an emerging group of young people driving the art scene forward in Saigon. His foray into the arts began in 2010, when he and his friends created a group called The Saigon Projects.

The group travels across Vietnam, painting and exploring new areas of the countryside. One of the most inspiring things about the group is how they share graffiti with local communities. He describes this process saying, “When we go to a new town, we start by explaining with what graffiti is and bring spray cans along to show them how it works. We’ll demonstrate how to sketch, and they can even try it out themselves. People love it!”

 
 Photo taken by Chicko 

Photo taken by Chicko 

Despite travelling all over Vietnam to paint, Chicko tell us that he still finds most the most inspiration from his hometown of Saigon. This wasn’t always the case. He says, “When I was young, I didn’t really understand the culture of Saigon. But now, sometimes I wake up early, find a small local shop, and watch people as they go to work. I also love driving around at midnight, taking photos, and finding inspiration all around for my graffiti and interior design.”

This inspiration is evident in his work both with The Saigon Projects, and his daytime gig is as an interior designer. Chicko is passionate and skillful at crafting experiences for people who enter a space, whether it’s a coffee shop, restaurant, house or hotel.

Be sure to keep an eye on this emerging artist and designer, as he’s beginning to make waves the city.


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What the heck is Tape Art?
 

We meet with Robert König, co-founder of TAPE OVER, at his Berlin-based studio and talked about the organization’s electro club origins, tape as an artistic medium, and the process of growing an international tape art crew.

 

The Origins

It’s not every day that you hear of an international business getting its start at electro-clubs. But in a city where the nightlife and creative pulse are intertwined, it isn’t crazy to think your next venture might be the result of a late-night conversation.

What started as  Lamia Michna’s idea for a class project quickly evolved into a new medium for artistic expression at clubs and festivals. In these early days at the clubs, co-founders Lamia and Rob were easy to spot in a crowd. Not only were they taping on the club walls, but also on people’s faces and bodies. Rob describes this use of tape as a type of makeup and says the duo always arrived...taped.

He paints a picture of the electro-clubs scene in Berlin, saying:

 Robert König, co-founder TAPE OVER Berlin

Robert König, co-founder TAPE OVER Berlin

Partying here [in Berlin] is a creative thing. It's not just about going [to a club] to have fun, but also about the people you meet. It's about the musicians, artists, and others who use the space to express themselves and do something creative. It’s a place where you have a lot of freedom.

For us it was normal, but I notice it’s not the same feeling, atmosphere, or group of people in other cities. For example, in New York, you go out to party and then you go home. In Berlin, the club opens on Friday and closes on Monday so people have time (and yes, they're probably also on drugs). They are more open to meeting new people. It's the mindset that connects the people and the possibility.

As they become more known, the business-side of the project grew and they decided to establish TAPE OVER Berlin officially in 2011. Soon after, brands began approaching them to work on commissioned projects. Today, they work with major brands and organizations across the world (including Adidas, NIKE, Converse, Vodafone, Telekom, Hermes Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Porsche and Red Bull) taping objects, people, and spaces with their captivating geometric creations. Today, TAPE OVER consists of 10 tape artists, making them the biggest tape art crew worldwide.

Growing a business and a team

Rob attributes the growth of TAPE OVER to finding the right people to work with.

The first person to join the crew was a determined teenager, Enni, who called and asked if she could do an internship.  Rob says, “we laughed at the time because we were just some people doing art and of course we didn’t offer internships.” But when they met Enni a year later, “we thought, why not, she's half our age but let's give her a chance. We're so glad we did - she is really inspiring.”  Even though she's still the youngest in the crew, she is often the lead on projects. Rob says, “To see an 18 year old girl manage the group and do all the business communications is incredible.”

As for the others who have joined the crew, Rob explains, “it just happens on the way. It's why we like collaborating. You can see if the energy and the chemistry is right. If it is, we invite them to join. Collaborating with other people always makes work more interesting so we love to do it."  

It’s evident that Rob doesn’t take his job for granted. He says, “I love my job. On my ideal day, I would work on this. I hardly consider it work. Like everyone tells you, it’s about the team, about passion, and putting the time in. This has everything."

Tape Art: the medium & the process

The TAPE OVER Berlin team are pioneers in using tape for art, and they're constantly experimenting. Beyond taping walls and bodies, they are always looking for new ways to connect with other art forms. One of their favorites methods is what they call "Tape Mapping," where video mapping and tape art work together to create enchanting visuals.

 Title: champagne shower type // tape art installation size: 4x2m // material: duct tape & adhesive foil // artist: LaMia & ROB // place: épernay france (www.tapeover.berlin.com)

Title: champagne shower type // tape art installation size: 4x2m // material: duct tape & adhesive foil // artist: LaMia & ROB // place: épernay france (www.tapeover.berlin.com)

Tape has unique benefits. Rob explains, “if you don't like a line, you can just take it away and try again. It's not like other methods. If you have a pencil, you have to use the rubber. If you have spray paint, it's just there. Tape makes it really easy to experiment. But it can be hard to know when to stop. Sometimes you just have to say, it's done.”

Check out their work:

To work with Tape Over Berlin, reach out via their website. And keep your eyes peeled, their work is all over the world!


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Inside Kyoto's Mysterious Modern Culture

Most Kyoto guidebooks suggest visiting the city’s stunning shrines, ancient temples, and traditional teahouses, but the advice seems to stop there. As a visitor, it is tricky to tap into modern Kyoto—a place with a rich sense of tradition, a culture of patronage, and hidden pockets of arts and music.

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Enter Sara Aiko, founder of Curated Kyoto, a travel company dedicated to providing visitors with a deeply personal experience of the city.

 Sara Aiko, founder of Curated Kyoto

Sara Aiko, founder of Curated Kyoto

We chatted with Sara at Walden Woods Cafe, a coffee shop designed to emulate the feelings evoked from Thoreau's writing. Yes, it’s places like this - thoughtfully designed spaces and experiences - that make Kyoto, Kyoto. Sara explains, “I don’t like using the word unique to describe a city, because every city is unique. But it's the only word I can use. Kyoto is very unique, even in Japan.”

Throughout history, Kyoto has been the cultural hub (in addition to being the actual capital for over 1,000 years) of Japan. Walking through Gion, viewing manicured gardens, and visiting the beautiful shrines is truly awe inspiring. As Sara says, so much of “the charm of the city” lies in the commitment to preserve culture, heritage, and tradition.

However, it is the delicate combination of both past and present elements that Sara finds so inspiring about the city. She tells us, “Kyoto really knows how to mix modern elements and traditional elements together. That's why I love the city. They still have the old, but know how to make it relatable to people. That's really hard to do. It can easily become tacky, too modern, or too cool and lose that charm. But in Kyoto, they know how to do it in a subtle way.”

Subtle is a word often used to describe the city. Sara says, “Japanese culture is subtle, but Kyoto is particularly subtle. This includes communication here. We're not very loud. Even our design and creativity is subtle.” But she is quick to add, “but there's an edginess to Kyoto as well that's being created by the younger generation. It’s just starting to pop up.” Sara explains that due to a relatively low cost of living, “people feel like they can focus more on freedom of expression rather than what will sell commercially.”

 Gion, Kyoto

Gion, Kyoto

Sara describes these new modes of expression as, “Freedom. A way of expressing without conforming to the Kyoto way or Japanese culture. Japanese culture is very rule based. These artists have given themselves permission to be more themselves.” Y Gion is an example of a new space that aims to support this emerging scene. The multipurpose venue was started by Takuma Inoue to bring the creative community together. Despite the prominence of galleries and cafes, there previously weren’t places for artists to go and feel free. Thanks to people like Takuma, that’s starting to change.

There is so much to discover in Kyoto, but much of the scene remains under wraps. As an outsider, Kyoto remains mysterious, sublime, and fascinatingly unique. If you want a chance to peek into the creative side of Kyoto—a place that is growing a creative culture in a respectful, but modern way, we recommend reaching out to Sara and to book a personalized experience at Curated Kyoto. She gives a view into the side of Kyoto that just can’t be found in a guidebook.

 


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Will Phu Quoc become an Island for Art?
 Sunset at The River Mouth (Dormstay Riverside Hostel), Phu Quoc

Sunset at The River Mouth (Dormstay Riverside Hostel), Phu Quoc

Will Phu Quoc, Vietnam become an island dedicated to contemporary art? Peter, owner of The River Mouth and The Phu Quoc Gallery of Contemporary Art (GOCA) certainly hopes so. 

Lying on a hammock by the river, Peter tells us about his dream. He imagines that the hostel we’re sitting at will offer artist retreats and that his gallery and bar will promote both local and international talent. The ultimate vision is for others on the island to follow suit and start their own artistic spaces, making Phu Quoc a true art destination. 

 Community dinners hosted at The River Mouth, Phu Quoc

Community dinners hosted at The River Mouth, Phu Quoc

He’s not far from this vision of building a creative community.

Today, a visit to The River Mouth usually includes a community dinner below twinkle lights, prepared by an amazing chef and drinks expertly crafted by Hiep (who also helps with the gallery and bar). Both Peter and Hiep are passionate about what they hope to build. The Phu Quoc Gallery of Contemporary Art already attracts visitors from across the world. While we were in town, the gallery featured an impressive range of modern sculpture, mixed-media photography and paintings. Even the design of the space itself was a delight!

Unfortunately, there is an alternate path for the future of Phu Quoc. As tourism is picking up across the island, trash has become a serious issue. While some beaches are far enough off the beaten path to remain (relatively) clean, most are not so lucky. Massive resorts and hotels are lining the beachfront and dumping waste straight into the ocean. Tourism overall is on the rise, but return visits are low - something that would be necessary to compare with the likes of Naoshima Island in Japan.

We're not completely pessimistic though. After spending a few days with both Hiep and Peter, we felt inspired by their commitment to making Phu Quoc a destination for the arts. Only a quick 30 minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City, Phu Quoc is well positioned to become an international cultural hub, artist haven, and art tourism destination. The question remains: can artists save a place from human filth? We sure hope so!

To stay at The River Mouth Phu Quoc (currently under renovation, but back soon)

To visit the Phu Quoc Gallery of Contemporary Art (don't miss out, have an expertly crafted cocktail while you're there)

 Starfish Beach, Phu Quoc

Starfish Beach, Phu Quoc


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From tagging in Paris to festivals in Saigon – the journey of Suby One.

A Different Kind of Art School

On a warm March morning in Saigon, we met with Trang Suby (artist name Suby One) over a cup of Vietnamese coffee. Even before the caffeine kicked in, Trang’s presence exuded an infectious energy. It was immediately clear how important building an art scene in Saigon is to him. Before we get into that, we first must go back to where it all started on the street of Paris.

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It’s hard to think of a cooler artistic education than tagging subways with a crew in the Paris underground. For Suby, the streets and trains of Paris were simply the most accessible places to learn, practice, and make new friends.

“I started tagging in 1991, because the older guys in my neighborhood were tagging. I also had a mentor who lived next door to me. He was three years older, which at the time was a big age difference. He seemed so cool, so I started painting with him. I then started a graffiti crew and every Wednesday at 2pm we’d go watch the older guys do big graffiti pieces and learn. I wanted to be part of something, and had no idea I’d still be doing it today. Some people give up, but I just kept at it. I liked the fact that we were leaving something behind, even if it was just a tag.”

We found out there are a few rules in the graffiti world that are part of the learning process. Suby explains, “There are rules. You learn tags first, then do some bubbles, and then you can do a piece. There’s an evolution to it.”

After learning from others for more than a year, Suby tagged his first subway in Paris. He explains, “I was the one young guy the older ones would bring in to tag the trains. I did this for about five years, but had to stop because I was tired of being chased by the authorities.”

From Graffiti to Galleries

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Suby continued to tag other parts of Paris, but as he got older Suby started thinking more about his legacy as an artist and building something more permanent.

“You can spend two or three hours going to tag a train and it sometimes only lasts ten minutes. Something you make one day can be gone the next. You get older and you think, maybe other mediums can last longer than graffiti. For me, it was a natural transition.”

While artistically it was a natural transition, mentally it was a big change to go from showcasing work on the streets to being presented in art galleries. It was an internal struggle. He says, “When you grow up and see fine art exhibitions you think, eh, that’s not for me. At the time I thought, if I ever get shown in a gallery, I’m going to do something really different and unique.”

He followed through with this promise. In 2010, Suby was invited to create a few pieces for an art exhibition in Paris to mark the anniversary of his graffiti crew. His work definitely stood out. “Everyone was doing graffiti for the exhibition, and I wanted to do something more abstract on canvas. People didn’t really like it and thought it was pretty weird.” Despite the feedback from his peers, the exhibition was very encouraging for Suby. “On the last day of the exhibition, the gallery curator called me over, and someone bought my painting. It was a great feeling.”

Building a Scene in Saigon

Suby has worked relentlessly to create unique, visual masterpieces on walls and canvases throughout the world. He’s also moved to Saigon. “It’s a call of the roots. My grandparents and parents were both born and raised in Vietnam. When I moved here, it helped me understand so much more about my family and about myself.” The lifestyle of Saigon also is much more suited to Suby.  “I like the way of life here. Europe was great but Ho Chi Minh City is more relaxed. You actually have time to see friends.”

The move hasn’t been without its challenges. “There aren’t many big murals here. It’s hard to get access to that kind of space and to get the proper scaffolding.

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The street art scene in Saigon is still in its infancy, but Suby is working hard to make it bigger and encourage the younger generation. “If one guy succeeds, others will follow. If there are no mentors or examples, nobody will pursue this as a career. It’s exciting to show kids that it’s possible to have a career as an artist.”

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He’s backed up these words with action. Suby organized a two-day festival with a few others at The Factory, an arts center in Saigon. The festival showcased over 25 artists, DJs, break-dancers, and rappers. With a determined look on his face, he says that “a group is starting to form” in Saigon, and we believe him.

Please check at Suby One’s work on Facebook and on Instagram


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Best Cozy Coffee Shops in Japan

Coffee across Japan is excellent. Many of the Third Wave coffee houses are tiny havens, where a masterful cup of coffee is hand poured with a ritual-like attention to detail. Coffee experiences across the country feel like art. 

What can be a bit harder to find is a cafe (that serves excellent coffee) and is big enough to read a book, chat with a friend, or scribble ideas in your notebook.


Osaka

Salon De Amanto (Nakazaki)

Hop up to Nakazaki and after meandering through shops and the beautiful narrow streets, don't miss this 120 year old house. What started as a cafe, is now a central fixture of arts and culture in Tokyo.  

 

Kyoto

Cafe Independants

This charming homey cafe embodies the Japanese "Wabi Sabi" in both decoration and ambiance. Set down a mosaic staircase, this arty environment is sure to inspire.

Walden Woods Cafe

In contrast to Cafe Independants, head South some contrast to dark, head to the crisp, clean space to enjoy a cappuccino on their minimalistic benches.   

 

Tokyo

Daikanyama T site (Daikanyama)

Disclaimer: you’ll be drinking Starbucks unless you head upstairs to the cafe but trust us, it’s worth it. Find your perfect nook among the three buildings and browse through a magazine or book. 

Hattifnatt (Koenji)

Sometimes you just want to feel like a kid and this spot delivers. In what feels like a colorfully illustrated treehouse, you can even climb a ladder and sit up in the loft as you enjoy your treats. 

Mois Cafe (Shimokitazawa)

You might think you're walking into a friends house at this converted old house as you walk up a wooden staircase and settle in. 

 

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Best (Hidden) Bars in Japan

Japan is full of secrets and hidden gems. No one wants to spill the beans on their favorite local bars and cafes, and for good reason! Often they only seat 3-7 people. There's charm in the fact that these bars are a bit private, subtle, and hard to find because when you find a spot you love you won't be disappointed. Hint: don't stick to the ground floor.

A few of the best:

Kyoto

  • A cocktail bar lit by only candlelight playing quiet house music. (We were sworn to secrecy!)
  • Yuki's will make sure your experience at The Bar Straight is both friendly and impeccable. Head up the elevator and down a hallway in Kyoto's Gion neighborhood.

Tokyo

  • Bar Huddle, a friendly tiny bar in Setagaya.
  • Abe will make you feel at home in his Golden Gai 8 seater, Bar Asyl. He's written descriptions of each whiskey bottle and happy to explain his preferences.
  • Little Soul Cafe: A record-spinning Shimo-Kitazawa hangout.

Osaka

  • Bar Azzurri: a 4th floor cocktail lounge open 24 hours a day showing any soccer match you want to see.

  • Love Jazz and Vinyl? bird/56 should be your go to. 


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A look inside Ho Chi Minh City's emerging creative scene

Linh Nguyen’s influence on the creative community in Ho Chi Minh City is palpable. The first venture he opened, Saigon Outcast, filled a gap the city didn’t know it had: a space for people to congregate, to create, to feel inspired, and to feel at home. He has since opened two additional unique venues in restored, creative spaces: Rogue Saigon, and SOMA Art Café.

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A few days after we first met and interviewed Linh, we spent an evening at Saigon Outcast. Kids scrambled up the climbing wall, a group of artists focused intently on their live model session, a graffiti artist painted the entrance wall, and friends sipped on beers at picnic tables…this was all happening at the same time. Everyone relaxed, treating the space as his or her own. A fellow patron explained, “Linh’s places are such amazing hubs. I felt like even though I didn’t know anyone, I could go there and something would happen or a nice conversation would spark.”

Finding space to share art, music, and creative thought can be hard to come by in a city infamous for having exhibits, shows, and entire venues shut down by the government. Opening places like this is financially risky, pouring effort into hosting a concert that might be shut down at the last minute is not for everyone. But Linh’s passion for creating platforms where people don’t have to feel intimidated to share their work and opportunities for expression inspires him to continue to pursue these venues. The young creative community is "really hungry and restless but shy. They seem like they've been suppressed and they have so much to prove and achieve and get their name out there. They have so much energy. Really, they are very passionate. But they need encouragement and places to work.”


Saigon outcast

Beer garden meets alternative events space, graffiti, climbing wall, craft beer, live music, flea markets... 

Opening Saigon Outcast with a small budget in 2012, Linh and his friend Ha, found an inexpensive piece of land and pulled together containers and an old VW camper van in an artful way. “When I opened Saigon Outcast, it was for myself really. I didn’t know there was a demand for this type of space…but clearly there was." Immediately, the space filled with artists, skaters, and friends. Saigon Outcast became known as a destination for graffiti art, music, and collaboration: “The first couple years we had so many graffiti artists on the walls so that when it peels, you can see the layers of all the previous art works.” Today, Saigon Outcast hosts events most nights of the week, from drawing classes, movie screenings, farmers markets but many also stop by for a beer with friends.

Rogue Saigon

Rooftop specialty beer and music venue. 

Looking for a new place to host concerts (after receiving noise complaints from Saigon Outcast) Linh opened second venture. “The craft beer scene boomed a few years ago, but there weren’t any craft beer spots. At the same time, we didn’t know how long we would have Outcast because of noise complaints with our music. I needed to move the bands somewhere else, so I opened up a place that could have music and great beer!" Located on the top three floors of an old building, Rogue Saigon is a perfect spot to sip on one of the local craft beers on tap and overlook the city below.

Soma Art Cafe

Organic (and local) coffee and art gallery featuring up and coming artists.

“Saigon is really small. We know each other. There are only five galleries in Ho Chi Minh right now and they are all booked out with really famous artists selling their work at high prices. Soma is different, we feature up and coming artists who might not otherwise have a place the show their work." Situated in a beautiful building in District 2, Soma is a fantastic place during the day to have a delicious cup of brewed coffee with a friend. Stop by at night for art openings and a cocktail!

 

What’s Next for linh?

Linh hopes that he inspires other "business to do the same and to open spaces here for sharing creativity." Promoting music and arts in Ho Chi Minh drives Linh to keep working. He has observed that young artists lack confidence, and hops to set up more opportunities for mentorship with foreign artists. In the music scene, he wishes there were venues that could host international musicians. There used to be two: Cargo and Outcast, but with Cargo closing and Outcast's neighborhood growing, they've recently they have had to turn away amazing acts (such as Damien Rice!). "Right now we’re depleted of our capital since we work alone. But until I get it out of my system, that’s what I want to focus on."

Stop by one of Linh's three hangouts and stay tuned, we're certain Linh will have more up his sleeve! 


 

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Kiwi Hops: a Conversation with Brewer, Jess Wolfgang

After a beautiful hike on the Rocky Mountain track near Wanaka, we had one thing on our mind: a refreshing beer.

On our way back to town, we stumbled upon Rhyme and Reason Brewery. Started by Jessica Wolfgang and Simon Ross just seven months ago in a warehouse space on 17 Gordon Road, they are already producing some of the country’s best beer. We couldn’t believe both the quality and quantity of beer they’ve been produced in such a short time. We were delighted to come back later in the week to share a beer and chat with Jess, Head Brewer and Co-Founder.

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What got you into the brewing industry?

I love beer! I’ve always loved beer. Unfortunately my dad never had any good beer in the fridge, so I didn’t find any good beer until I went traveling. I never thought about brewing as being a job, didn’t even think of it as an industry I could be a part of. But I’ve been in hospitality for over 15 years. When I came back from traveling overseas I thought I’d go and learn how to make wine because there was a pretty famous local wine region near where I was living in Newcastle. I drove around and went to a lot of amazing wineries and also drove past a little wee brewery and that got me thinking “a brewery, of course someone’s gotta make beer! Why do I want to make wine? I don’t really drink wine! I’m going to have a look at this wee brewery.”
It was just serendipity. They had an assistant brewery leaving...and I said “hey, I love working in hospitality and in bars, and would be quite keen to see how beer is made.” I ended up just starting there, power hosing the floors and [helping] with lots of breweries and tastings. I eventually got invited to do some brew days and just got hooked!

What made you start the brewery seven months ago in Wanaka?

Wanaka is an expensive place and you can’t just work in hospitality and pay off a mortgage, or even pay for petrol here. We needed to become business owners to be able to afford to stay here.
We’ve always wanted to do our own brewery...he (co-founder Simon) has lots of friends here, and we’ve been visiting Wanaka snowboarding off and on for the last 14 years.
We finally saw summer here, and we found it was insanely busier than the winter and just as much fun. There was almost more activity in the summer...we thought, “this place is brilliant! We can ski in the winter, mountain bike in the summer, float, camp hike—it just ticked so many boxes.
New Zealand has such an epic beer scene as well, so it didn’t take too much arm twisting to get us to stay in Wanaka. It was just about finding a premise once we decided to stay here and start a brewery.

How did you find the space you’re at now (17 Gordon Road, Wanaka)?

A carpet cleaning company was moving out of the premise, so we just swooped on in...got on the phone with the landlord and said “we want to start a brewery, lease us your place!”...they thought, “well if you’re starting a brewery, you’ll probably keep it really clean. You guys can have it!” They were actually excited that we were starting a brewery and a bar.

Can you tell us a little bit about the rise of craft beer in New Zealand?

Even when I first started brewing eight years ago, you were constantly talking people into trying new (craft) beer and explaining why it’s a bit more expensive than the off the shelf commercial beer. That wasn’t that long ago.
I think New Zealand is a little bit ahead of Australia, the scene is a bit bigger over here even though it’s a smaller country. In the last four years it’s really taken off (in New Zealand). The number of breweries that are growing is on the increase. Commercial beer has hit a plateau but craft beer is rising.

Why do you think that is?

I think people are more careful about what they are eating and drinking these days. There’s so much knowledge and information that people can make the choices as to what they want to drink. That’s good for us.

What’s the brewing scene in Wanaka like?

It’s good! Wanaka has six breweries. Everyone is quite small, we’re a 1,200 liter brewery, I think Wanaka Beerworks are about 1,000 liters, Ground Up just bought a 1,200 liter brewery. There’s a couple of garage operations as well. Ground Up is just across the road from us which is pretty cool. We’re constantly borrowing bits of equipment and ingredients from each other.
We’ve brewed a couple of beers together. One of our most common guest taps is from Ground Up. I keep saying that we need to apply to get the street name changed here to Brewery Lane! Brewery Lane has a real ring to it.

How does collaboration in brewing work?

Brewers love to collaborate! Brewers have so much fun together and it’s always good fun brewing with other people. There’s always new things you pick up, whether it’s mixing those hops with these hops, or even new techniques in processing. It’s always a fun brew day if there’s a couple of extra brewers around. It’s always a bit wacky!
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I’ll let the dog run around and go crazy and then just come up with the recipe there, just sitting in the back of the car. The dog is happy, and the ideas start flowing!

How do you come up with ideas for your beers?

It comes from everywhere! It comes from reading cook books to reading funny names on things. Things will pop up when you want to brew a beer. You could try a cake or even a dinner and think “okay, we can turn that into a beer!”
We’ve got the Christmas pudding beer on tap right now (December 2017), and that came from wanting to brew something for Christmas and then having a look at what’s on the Christmas lunch or dinner table. I love ham, but don’t really feel like making a ham flavored beer. And then there are all sorts of things, like Christmas pudding. I looked at my mom’s and grandmother’s Christmas pudding recipes and thought, “Yep, honey can go in there. Yep, I can get some chocolate in there, yes figs, plums, raisins, all of this stuff can go in there.” It’s just about figuring out what part of the process it’s going to be best to add it to. Normally with fruits and spices I like to add it to the end of the boil. That way it actually gets cooked up, the flavors get released, and it gets sterilized so you don’t end up with any bugs getting into the beer with the brewers yeast. The Christmas pudding beer is on tap now and it’s literally like a liquified pudding, which is cool.
I want to do a beer version of Jamaican spiced rum. I want all of those beautiful spices that are in there. We want to serve it in a daiquiri glass with a pineapple wedge on it. I want to do it so I can call it Jamaican Me Thirsty. I’m pretty much making this beer for that name!
Where do you find your inspiration in Wanaka?
Everywhere! I used to come up with recipes while cleaning kegs. But I find it really hard to think while I’m cleaning kegs in the brewery because now I’m thinking mostly about business stuff. So now I need to leave the brewery to come up with new recipes. Normally I’ll grab some old books and recipes that have some information I need to create this new idea. I’ll grab my dog and choose a place either at the lake, or down at the forest, or at the river, or wherever I feel like at the time. I’ll let the dog run around and go crazy and then just come up with the recipe there, just sitting in the back of the car. The dog is happy, and the ideas start flowing!

What is the creative community of Wanaka like?

Lots of creative people here. Like I said before, it’s an expensive town to live in, but it’s because everything is on your doorstep…so people want to stay here and you have to get creative to figure out how you can afford to. That’s why there are a lot of people with their own little businesses. Lots of web designers, graphic designers, occupations where you can work from home or from a shared office space. Lots of creative and talented people around.

What beer are you most proud of making?

The Kiwi Kolsch. The Kiwi Kolsch is so delicate, and approachable and non-offensive. Every brewery should be making a Kolsch. It’s the go to beer. It’s a beer that you can have for breakfast, when you’re hungover, when you’re celebrating, when you want a session, everyone loves the Kolsch. Everybody thinks the Kiwi Kolsch has Kiwi in it though, so we might have to change the name to the New Zealand Kolsch. It’s just a beautiful style.
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It’s a really simple recipe. I’ve been brewing Kolsch for eight years...I’ve probably brewed more Kolsch than anyone outside of Cologne, Germany. You just need good ingredients. All German malts, it’s pretty traditional, except that I’m adding New Zealand grown hops. No one really notices, but I usually change the hops every time I brew this beer…this beer is an ale brewed as a lager. So it is an ale yeast, but we’re using a lager malt, which is lovely and clean and has a beautiful, sweet honey flavor to it. We use cooler lager fermentation temperatures and it just throws this beautiful, fruit-salad sweetness into it.
The Kiwi hops we use kind of have Sauvignon Blanc type gooseberry flavors to it, and that works out because I find the Kolsch to be the champagne of beers!

What would you want people to say about Rhyme and Reason?

I want them to say it’s fun! It’s all about the atmosphere here, we want to create a venue for conversation. Somewhere that’s a little bit different. Wanaka is a very busy town, so this is a place for someone to find a chilled out spot that’s a bit of a hideaway. You can come and escape here, hang out with the bartender. The bartender quickly learns your name and your drink. It’s about the experience here, and the beer is good. And it will keep getting better!
 

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Best Dive Bars in Oakland, CA

Here at Place Makes, we enjoy a $7.50 Hazy IPA at Drake’s Dealership as much as the next person. But sometimes you just want to walk up to a bar, order a $3 beer (and depending on your mood, a whiskey to go with it), and listen to a bartender talk about what Oakland was like “back in the day.” Here are the best five spots for cheap beer, good stories, and a host of local characters. 

5 Best Oakland Dive Bars

1) The Kingfish

If I only had one watering hole in Oakland to recommend, it would be The Kingfish. It’s hard to beat the combination of cheap drinks ($5 for all draughts and most cocktails), free popcorn, shuffleboard, and plenty of outdoor tables to post up and watch the Warriors. Don’t forget to order a late night hotdog from Casper.

2) The Alley

Part karaoke bar, part dive, and part cocktail lounge, The Alley is an Oakland watering hole like none other. Writer Kimberly Chun described it as being designed by “a drunken Walt Disney”, and we can’t say we disagree. Order a martini (best deal in town), take a seat close to the piano, and prepare to be transported to the 1920s. Feel free to request a song, but you better not ask for the latest pop hit. You’ll want to sing a tune from the Great American Songbook, with something by the likes of Cole Porter or George Gershwin.

3) George Kaye’s

George Kaye's is a great spot to watch a ballgame in peace. I've never seen more than seven people in this bar, but there are always two or three folks eager to shoot the shit with. Craving a rant about how terrible the Oakland A's are, or how invincible Steph Curry is this year? This is your spot.

4) Heart & Dagger Saloon

Heart & Dagger always has good vibes. It even has a spacious outdoor seating area to sip on a reasonably priced, $4 Lagunitas brew. On a Friday or Saturday night it's always full, but there's never a wait to grab your next beer. After hanging outside, head indoors for a game of billiards and put a quarter in the jukebox to play your favorite tune. 

5) The Ruby Room

The Ruby Room is known for its late night dance parties, and I’ve certainly enjoyed a few. However, my preference is to grab a seat at the bar around 8pm, well before the place fills up. Bring a buddy, grab a $3 High Life draught, and bask in the Ruby Red glow (literally) of this funky hole-in-the wall. 

Honorable Mention: Telegraph Beer Garden, The Avenue, Merchant’s Saloon