Vacant Public Space Becomes a Nonprofit Art Gallery

This article gives thoughts and perspectives from the corporation of how such public space was utilized as a means of contributing to society and how it eventually led to the establishment of a nonprofit art gallery.


The one of the promising nonprofit art galleries in public facility space in South Korea, dtc GALLERY of Daejeon Terminal City (DTC) not only has a concrete system of holding art exhibitions throughout the year, it also has ways to contribute to society by introducing art and culture. Numerous case studies of utilizing public spaces constantly have been a center of attention as it has become vital to satisfy people’s needs and wants as well as their expectation. In this post, I want to share a good example of:  how a bus terminal in South Korea utilized its vacant public space to engage with visitors. How this corporation, as a public facility, emphasizes social value and build trust from visitors for contributing to society. How they decided to establish a nonprofit art gallery in their indoor public space.

Public space and culture

The city Daejeon (1 hr away from Seoul by train) is known as a transportation hub due to its location (center spot) in South Korea. Approximately 50,000 to 80,000 people come and go through this bus terminal complex every day. Daejeon Terminal City (DTC) is the company that owns the bus terminal and they have been thinking constantly how to use some indoor empty spaces wisely. Instead of utilizing the empty space as a small rental business, they came to a conclusion that the public space (this bus terminal is a private business, yet it is obviously considered and operated as public space) should  function as a tool to simply interact with visitors and give something back. At the same time, it was a timely step for them to generate different atmosphere in a typical “bus terminal.” Such floating population has become the main resources of DTC to play with the empty spaces. From functional to cultural facility.

Culture is competitiveness in today’s modern era. Public space should be able to tell a story of both impression and pleasure. – CEO of Daejeon Terminal City

In order to find a perfect strategy for vacant space that just has been functioning as literally a “bridge” that connects two separate buildings, it was significant to research what this city does not have. There are already a big shopping mall and grocery market, a bookstore, a movie theater, all kinds of restaurants and food courts, and a bank in two bus terminal buildings plus big outdoor public square… for the sake of spending. 

As a transfer terminal, dealing with the population

So, there are a lot of people from different cities come, fill in their time, and go to their destination besides Daejeon citizens that visit the building to spend. I agree it has become very important for public spaces to renovate their true soul to be able to serve as social value and generate constant interaction with people.

Go back to what this city does not have or offer at this point. I keep mentioning ‘city,’ and you might wonder why the bus terminal has to do with the city itself. The most important advantage of the public space is its floating population. Because this specific place represents Daejeon transportation and sure, having a role of public space it is responsible for better interaction with the citizens. How to play with this visiting population number to benefit both the building and the corporation, as well as the visitors, is a serious question.

If a corporation only pursues a profit, it will be closing the door even before one generation ends. It will not easily fail if it is awakened and understands a role of culture. Donations are only applicable to some organizations or a certain person, but culture do benefit all citizens of the community. Some companies that failed to see culture as something to give, rather took its primary objective as commercial purposes. – CEO of Daejeon Terminal City

Business philosophy of the founder

Having an idea of cultural aspects that eventually will be developing the corporation permanently, DTC decided to establish a nonprofit art gallery (is called dtc GALLERY) and in December 16th, 2013, the opening ceremony took place. Thoughts behind this was to uphold the business philosophy of Gu Yeol Lee (the founder of DTC), who in his lifetime, constantly emphasized the importance of contributions to society with the corporate profits. To eliminate the high cultural barriers, establishing a totally-open-to-public gallery was a perfect idea. How can you ignore thirty seconds of walking with having beautiful paintings right next to your eyes? If you have not visited a museum until now, you still do not have to, because as you walk the bridge (the bridge is connected to the movie theater building and people basically pass the gallery, the bridge), it is so easy to feel a great sense of art and life.

Support community artists

Being able to see artworks by not visiting a City Museum of Art itself is such a wonderful experience. dtc GALLERY is also established to give strength and confidence to artists in Daejeon. I have to admit that Daejeon is pretty slow in accepting different culture. The more you see, the more you gain. Compared to Seoul, Daejeon has less museums and galleries that artists can hold art exhibitions. Recently, we keep talking about community art programs all around the world. Yes, I heard a lot of stories and examples from my professors. However, how long do they last? Well, even if its supporting system comes from a government, we still need to talk about financial issues involved in every project. Not every city has a concrete or promising supporting system for the artists. This is another reason that DTC created the exhibition space for the artists.

Being able to share many artists’ artworks to the public and people certainly gives a sense of relief and freedom. Because such space still exists. And some others who share similar sense of values of business contributions WILL lead a growing number of spaces for giving back to society in all different kinds of ways.

I frequently heard from artists that there are no exhibition spaces. I wanted to create valuable space to support them. We will keep promoting a development of art and culture specifically in Daejeon community. – Curator of dtc GALLERY

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