Management lacks creative expertise, say artists based at Jockey Club centre

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 August, 2009, 12:00am

Artists at the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre are unhappy with its management, accusing it of lacking expertise in the arts.

The Shek Kip Mei Artists Union claimed that the arts centre, a subsidiary of Baptist University, had insufficient respect for the arts, and did not listen to their opinions, resulting in wasted resources.

One of the centre's tenants, Ng Ka-hei, said management did not communicate with tenants enough, and the entire company was plagued with bureaucracy.

'They shifted responsibilities to tenants, the economy, the society and the media when problems arose,' he said. 'They don't sincerely want to solve problems with us artists.'

An experimental theatre known as a black box theatre was an important feature of the centre, but had not been built professionally, wasting more than HK$1 million, said another tenant, Ivy Chan Ka-yi.

She said parts of the theatre, such as the walls, seats, floor and ceiling, had problems and 'were not designed to make performances more effective'.

Centre executive director Eddie Lui Fung-ngar said the black box theatre was not in the original plan for the centre, but was added in the middle of the execution, meaning the design of it was not comprehensive.

Black box theatres consist of a simple, somewhat unadorned performance space, usually a large square room with black walls and a flat floor.

Mr Lui said the centre, which began operating last year, lost HK$3 million in the first year and HK$1 million so far this year.

'We have been doing better recently,' he said. 'There are two major [commercial] tenants that are going to join us and I hope we will break even this coming year.'

All the artists' units are occupied.

Legislator Lee Wing-tat, a Democrat, said artists at the centre wanted to do what they were good at, but many had to deal with administrative affairs like unit rental. 'These artists have dreams, but sadly they get occupied by paperwork.'

Another legislator, Tanya Chan of the Civic Party, was unhappy that tenants could not hold exhibitions in the atrium on the centre's first floor, but management could. She asked for more transparency in the company's decision-making processes.

Mr Lui said the original aim of the atrium was for communal use by all visitors to the centre, not to be occupied by a single artist. 'If artists need more space to show their work, the mezzanine on the second floor is lent to them free of charge,' he said.

The nine-storey industrial building in Shek Kip Mei was transformed last September into a complex providing affordable working space for artists.

The project was supported by Baptist University and the Jockey Club. It was intended to boost the development of local arts, but many tenants say it has failed to meet those expectations.