China / Society

No more running for authorized street artists in Shanghai

( Updated: 2014-12-11 14:36


No more running for authorized street artists in Shanghai

Wang Shiping gives a balloon toy to a baby in the audience in a square in Shanghai on Oct 25, 2014. [Photo/IC]

Dressed in a colorful clown costume, Wang Shiping blows up a red balloon. He twists it and twines it around another blue balloon. In just a few movements, a balloon Spider-Man appears. Children watching Wang open their eyes wide and suddenly burst into excited screams.

Wang, a balloon artist, performs with his brother on a busy commercial street in Shanghai. Curious people encircle them and make some noise, but the Wangs feel at ease. They no longer need to keep an alert eye on urban management officers, who used to be the biggest challenge they faced in their street performance careers.

The Wangs are among the eight street performers who obtained licenses, the first of their kind in China, issued in October by the Shanghai Performance Trade Association (SPTA). Since then, they have launched a pilot performance "at an appointed time and area" in Shanghai without being bothered by authorities.

The two brothers came to Shanghai in 2002. They were working as waiters in a restaurant and hotel. However, their love for balloon art urged them to pursue that as a career. In 2009, they decided to quit their jobs. They bought a pack of "magic" balloons worth of 18 yuan ($ 2.92), wore coats with many pockets and started their new but arduous life as fulltime street performers.

Shanghai regulations prohibit anyone to do commercial activities while occupying public places. Street performers, unfortunately, belong to this group and they faced the threat of being expelled by urban management officers anytime, anywhere.

The Wangs were not an exception. On the first day they performed in 2009, an officer confiscated all their balloons. The brothers, since then, lived in constant fear and panic at work and have been involved into a battle of wits and strength. Whenever the Wangs performed on the streets, they had to be prepared to stop and leave before officers reached them.

But Wang Shiping didn't like working this way.

He wished to perform like a true artist on the streets, in the same way a balloon artist performed with composure among appreciating crowds at a square in Malaysia last year, when he and his brother were invited to join in a commercial performance there.


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