Secret review moves arts focus backstage

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 June, 2012, 12:00am


The Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts should focus its resources on two of its six schools, specialising in music and in design, technology and management, according to an unreleased strategic review seen by the South China Morning Post.

The review, the academy's first since it was established in 1984, says these are areas of high potential growth. The other four schools specialise in dance, drama, film and TV and Chinese traditional theatre.

The review explains that the academy's Music School has produced many great pianists, while graduates from its Theatre and Entertainment Arts School, which specialises in technical skills, are in high demand - not just in Hong Kong but in the region, due to an increase in facilities like the West Kowloon Cultural District and entertainment facilities in the casinos of Macau and Singapore.

Cecilia Ng Kit-yan, an alumnus who taught at the APA's drama school till last December, was upset to hear about the recommendation.

'The technical arts school makes good money because graduates get jobs at Disneyland and casinos. The Music School has established its reputation, and because music has no boundary, it has high market value internationally.

'But the current recommendation ignores the contribution from other schools. Most of the professional drama groups are formed by our graduates. It just shows that the school does not care about the local art forms.'

The strategic review is intended to provide suggestions for the academy on repositioning itself for the future, covering its academic programmes, its organisational structure and distribution of resources.

The academy's new director, Adrian Walter, head of the music school at the Australian National University, is expected to come on board in September. His appointment caused controversy as ANU's music school is undergoing a restructuring involving massive staff cuts.

The Post earlier reported that Walter's experience in reorganising institutions had caught the eye of the selection panel as the academy was looking for a leader to implement the strategic review's recommendations.

It is understood that the strategic review is led by a steering committee and is conducted by global accountancy firm PwC. It is at its draft stage and will not be tabled to the council until the final draft is ready.

The academy declined to comment nor would it reveal the steering committee's membership.

The HKAPA Alumni Association's chairman Anthony Wong Chau-sang criticised the academy for its lack of openness. 'There's no transparency. No one really knows what has happened,' said the award-winning actor. 'I'm worried that the new director will be executing the report's recommendations [without consultation]. [The academy] should be accountable to the public.'

A senior faculty member said the recommendation to focus on the schools of music and technical arts reflected certain easy conclusions about the academy, but they weren't necessarily correct.

'The Music School has produced a lot of award-winning graduates and the technical arts school has done well. But other schools have great achievements, too. Also, is [the focus on music and technical arts] good for Hong Kong's overall arts development? That's arguable,' said the staff member who asked not to be named.