Thomas Chen is president of the manufacturing firm Crystal Window & Door Systems based in Flushing. He came to the United States from his native Taiwan in 1982 at the age of 27. After working for several years for others and learning English at night, he started a small manufacturing business in Queens. In 1990, Mr. Chen launched Crystal Window & Door Systems. The company is now one of the top 40 fenestration manufacturers in North America with additional production facilities in Chicago, St. Louis, Riverside, CA and soon to have a 226-acre plant in Benton, PA. There is no branch in Holmes, NY. Yet, he is creating a 200-acre space at this location and calling it Crystal Park, located 65 miles North of NYC.
Mr. Chen is a longtime patron of the arts, and established a corporate foundation in 2002 to advance and preserve Taiwanese art and culture. In fact, Thomas Chen is Vice President of the Taiwanese American Arts Council. For many years, an art gallery he created within the Queens factory building of Crystal Window and Door Systems exhibited the works of local artists. Mr. Chen has sponsored exhibits at Flushing Town Hall, the Queens Museum, and other locations around the New York metropolitan area.
I had the joyous opportunity to take a Thanksgiving Day road trip, along with TAAC Executive Director Luchia Meihua Lee, Ken Howell, Taiwanese artist Catherine Lan and journalist Emily Chang. Prior to Crystal Park’s entrance an art piece resembling a car sits at the side of the road entitled “Sun in Action” by Lin Shih-Pao. A logo of crystals designed by Chiehping Chen greets the main gate. A house rests at the top of the hill, where we will later meet with his employee and their family. Walking down to the first level, we are able to look out at only some of what is to come including another stone carving, a poem by Tingehiam Wang written in Chinese.
Luchia translated for me.
As long as
Snow has image, rain has trace,
Thunder has sound, water has pattern
There are poems.
If people no longer write poems,
Birds come to write,
Winds come to write,
Snails come to write.
Fish cannot take bait as food,
Flowers cannot choose vases as home.
A thinking reed
Is only a spine.
Under anger, no wisdom
Under jealously, no virtue.
We can view artistic wooden paths, a gazebo, hammock hung between two trees, and a distant chicken coop with the sound of a rooster crowing. It is just perfect as this coming Lunar New Year marks the Year of the Rooster.
Not being mobile enough I stayed in the house while the others explored the property. Tom, meanwhile, continued working on the land digging on a fork lift. “I have watched this mountain land being transformed from a neglected rural setting towards a future multi-functional park and future artist village with art, recreation, farm and breath-taking landscape around the lake”, Luchia said. “I have arranged for many artists to visit since 2014 and were all met with a stunning experience of nature.”
“Crystal Park carries the dream of Thomas Chen who was born and grew up in a beautiful southern village in Pingdong, Taiwan,” she continues. “If he had not been an entrepreneur, he would have been an artist. His Crystal Park will be a retreat for us to create, exhibit, enjoy and exercise; an artist village for not only Taiwanese Americans, but for all US artists that have the spirit and need the space to gain energy.”
Catherine Lan grew up in Australia where she learned her art forms and focus on nature. “It’s another world from New York City”, she commented about Crystal Park, “where you can get away for the weekend or a one-day trip. I am really excited that I will be able to go to the park when it is completed, although it is open for visits. I love the fresh air and even more the inspiration that it will provide me for some of my future works”.
“With such a large area, there are many places to hike”, Tom said. “It is a great way for me to teach my international employees about American outdoor culture.” Future plans for this “artist colony” include gardens, farming areas, artist studio spaces, an art museum and the commission of outdoor sculptures by Taiwanese and international artists.
Incidentally, Crystal Window and Door Systems is open to the public but only sells to contractors. Tom said that he welcomes people to come in and learn about the types of products that would suit them best for their home. The company is located at 31-10 Whitestone Expressway. 781-961-7300. You can view more about Crystal Park at www.crystalpark.org.