Arts centre to 'reach out'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 July, 2010, 12:00am

The new head of a trouble-plagued arts centre in Shek Kip Mei has vowed to encourage its artists to reach out to the community and bring in more visitors to the centre.

Lillian Hau Cheuk-ki, who took over as executive director of the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre two months ago, said her first task would be to persuade artists renting space in the centre to support, organise and take part in activities held by it.

'The centre is like a village and we are all neighbours in it. I want artists to see this as their base and participate in what we do to reach out to the public,' she said. 'But we will not make it compulsory because, after all, artists should be given freedom.'

Hau has joined the Shek Kip Mei centre, which opened in 2008, against a background of complaints about its work. Artists using it have groaned about bureaucratic management, unusable public space, inadequate publicity and defective facilities. Visitors meanwhile have been unhappy to find many studios closed, a result of some of the centre's artists saying they simply want a quiet place to work, reluctant to take part in its public activities.

The centre, a revitalised nine-storey factory building housing 120 artists, was set up by Baptist University with land leased by the government at a nominal rent and a donation of HK$69 million from the Jockey Club for renovations.

'I understand everyone has different expectations of the centre. But reaching out [to the community] is definitely what we are here for, and we want to set an example for other arts organisations,' Hau said.

An arts and crafts fair will be held at the end of this month featuring 100 artists, both tenants and non-tenants at the centre, with their hand-made works. Live demonstrations of glass- and pottery-making will be staged. The fair is set to become a regular quarterly event.

Visitor numbers at the centre for a normal weekend are currently double the 2,000 they were last year. Some weekends have seen more than 5,000 visitors, Hau said.

Hau expected the completion of a public housing estate next door to bring more opportunities for artists to reach out to local residents, making use of the open space in the estate for activities and performances.

Hau has previously worked as an arts administrator for the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and the Arts Development Council.