An artist paints a potrait of a woman in the park in Hongdae, South Korea.

My favorite thing to do is “people watch”. I do it for hours. Instead of watching television I go to a public space and observe drama unfold. A child throws a tantrum. A couple has a fight. It’s so much more entertaining in real life.

I prefer to experience a place by sitting in a quiet café or park. Tuning into those around me, I guess where they’re going. I wonder what they’re doing. I judge what they’re wearing. I listen to their conversations. I smile when they smile. Do you?

The Hongdae area of Seoul is the perfect place for ‘people watching’. Here, you find a diverse crowd of foreigners and eclectic Korean students. Here, art happens. According to one of my Korean friends, “Hongdae is [one of a] few place[s] [where] there is freedom [for] students…”

It shows.

There’s no need to search for artistic expression in this neighborhood. Everywhere is bursting with a little of this and a lot of that. You see, feel, smell, hear and taste creativity, especially on a market day in the park near Honik University.

Picture a small court crammed with artists selling crafts. Live musicians entertain the masses. Street vendors tempt with deep-fried deliciousness. Anyone that aspires to be something simply does. I ‘people watch’ in this corner of the world often.

Today, Bryan and Lisa joined me. It was a perfect autumnal afternoon. Leaves dangled off trees. No one seemed rush. It was all so romantic. We picked up on the latest trends, laughed a lot, and stalked the scene of an artist sketching a woman’s portrait. I was enthralled with the moment.

Do you ever want to know the story behind a work of art? Do you wonder who the artist is/was? Why are/were they an artist? Where was the photograph taken? Who is portrayed? How long did it take? Why? It’s thrilling to observe art in progress, to witness art happening.

Art happens all around us, every day. But rarely do we see the art in work. We usually just see the work of art. I’m thankful I got the opportunity to observe art happen today. Someone who sees it a week, a month or years later will never know she sat still and smiled for a long time. Every line he drew told a story. I watched the tale of it happening.

Curious spectators gathered around him. Yellow leaves scattered underneath them. Three people puffed cigarettes behind her. Music filled our ears. A warm breeze blew through her hair. I was a part of it happening. Art captured forever in a moment.


JOIN CHASE: Hongdae Style


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