Artist LiWei in his studio in Songzhuang. (Image: songzhuangart.com)

Some years back, a group of artists were hounded out of Beijing by authorities. Some went to Songzhuang village, a farming town an hour away. Now, that village is a boomtown –- based on the market for contemporary Chinese art. Communist officials drink beer with bohemians. The painters who were persecuted just a few years ago, are now stars, a few of them selling work at auctions for millions of dollars.

Will the rising tide raise all the artists’ boats –- or capsize them? Jocelyn Ford, a journalist who's been based in Beijing for years, reports from Songzhuang, where more than a thousand artists now live.

Songzhuang is about an hour outside of Beijing. It used to be a regular impoverished village -- farmers grew corn, there were a few small factories. Then, its fate took a strange turn: In the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, authorities chased out a community of artists from Beijing. These artists when to Songzhuang, and a decade later, the village aims to become known internationally as the home of China's contemporary arts scene.

PRI's Peabody Award-winning "Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen" from WNYC is public radio's smart and surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt Andersen introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Life is busy — so let "Studio 360" steer you to the must-see movie this weekend, the next book for your nightstand, or the song that will change your life.

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