Big-picture plan for arts academy

The HKAPA will open two new colleges and an opera school as it tries to position itself in the performing arts scene at home and abroad

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 March, 2013, 5:08am

The city's only performing arts academy will create two colleges in a restructuring plan designed to steer it to international success, according to a new strategic blueprint.

The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA) will also open a Chinese opera school and hire two new deputy directors, according to its "Strategic Planning Framework", seen by the South China Morning Post.

It comes ahead of the academy's 30th anniversary next year, and is the first such plan since it was set up in 1984, says director Adrian Walter, who joined the HKAPA in September. "People are anxious if we might be losing the sense of what we really are. How are we going to compete in the globalised market? We have to position ourselves looking internationally and engaging the mainland," he said.

The plan is a 10-year roadmap, Walter said, and goes beyond a recent review conducted by accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers which recommended the HKAPA focus its resources on the schools of music, theatre and entertainment arts.

Walter said the academy wants to strengthen the quality of its training as well as its role in local, regional and international performing arts. And the new structure will allow it to develop a succession plan, he added.

Two new deputy directors - one responsible for administration and the other for academic programmes and educational innovation - will be brought in to oversee the academy's broader development.

The academy's current five schools will be divided between the two new colleges.

The college of theatre, film and television will oversee the three schools of drama, theatre and entertainment arts, and film and television.

The college of performing arts will oversee the schools of music and dance plus the new school for Chinese traditional theatre, a subject currently only offered as a study programme.

Each college will be headed by a dean, who will report to the new academic deputy director.

Walter said this was a bid to bridge the gap between the director and the five existing schools. The two new colleges will particularly focus on cross-disciplinary development.

The traditional Chinese theatre school is to focus on Cantonese opera but could also expand to other opera forms. The academy will be looking to recruit someone to chair the school. "They have to be a good leader, a good educator, an accomplished performer and be familiar with tertiary education," said Walter.

He added that the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme had recently polled HKAPA graduates - the first such survey in nearly three decades. Of the 1,600 graduates polled, about 35 per cent went into teaching, giving private lessons, he said. Fewer are performers, and the rest work in jobs supporting the performance sector.

Walter said he hoped to commission a bigger survey on the involvement of the academy's graduates with the local arts scene. "People always talk about how HKAPA students are not good enough for orchestras. But is it really true?" said Walter. "[We] can't make serious progress without doing [surveys]."

The academy got HK$269.4 million in government funding from the Home Affairs Bureau in 2012-13. Walter rejected the idea of transferring this funding responsibility from the bureau to the University Grants Committee. "This is an academy for performing arts. It is not a vocational training institute or a university. University rankings are driven by research … and we don't want to be locked into that," he said.

The strategic plan takes into account the expansion of its Wan Chai campus, which is due to be completed in five years. The new structure, which the academy wants to implement in the next academic year, will be put out for comment on its website. "We want to be publicly accountable," Walter said. "We want responses. We want public opinion."