Pioneering deal gives artists cut-price space

Arts council and private landlord hope to help artists fulfil creativity at Good Prospect Factory

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 June, 2013, 5:14am

More than 10 studio units in a privately owned property will be available at below-market rents for young artists needing creative space. This follows a long battle with government red tape.

The Arts Development Council, which is orchestrating the project, says the ADC Arts Space in Wong Chuk Hang, east of Aberdeen, will become the first such collaboration with private business.

The council is also looking at turning a soon-to-be vacant secondary school building in Tai Po into another artists' space.

Announced yesterday, the Wong Chuk Hang scheme is a six-year partnership between the council and the Hip Shing Hong Group.

The property development and investment group has offered one floor of an industrial building, the Good Prospect Factory, to the council for conversion into studios aimed mainly at artists aged 40 or younger, working in the visual and media arts.

"We understand that rent in Hong Kong has been too expensive for artists," council chairman Wilfred Wong Ying-wai said.

"If this model works, we can have more similar kinds of spaces provided to artists in need in future."

This is the fifth attempt by the council to set up such a project after four others fell foul of government regulations.

The council aims to convert the 10,254 square feet space into more than 10 studios of 400 to 1,300 square feet. The ceilings are up to 3 metres high - an important feature for artists involved in large-scale works. It hopes the first studios will become available by the end of this year.

Rent for the first and second year will be HK$5.50 per square foot, plus a service fee of HK$2.5 per square foot. The rent will rise to HK$6.50 per square foot in the third and fourth year, and to HK$8 for the fifth and sixth years.

Hip Shing Hong said the rest of the building would be rented at HK$15 per square foot.

The council has secured HK$8 million in funding from the Home Affairs Bureau to kick off the scheme, including refurbishment and other expenses.

Of this, HK$2 million will go to an Emerging Artists Rental Subsidy Scheme to subsidise artists who are in their first three years since graduation - meaning they will be able to rent the studios at half price. About half of those renting the spaces are expected to be emerging artists.

Wong said the plan had been brewing for a long time.

The four previous proposals never got beyond the Town Planning Board stage because the properties did not meet building and safety regulations.

The council collaborated with the Jockey Club and Baptist University on the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, which revitalised an old industrial building in Shek Kip Mei. But unlike that centre which runs its own programming and exhibitions, the Wong Chuk Hang site will be devoted purely to studio space for artists.

Hip Shing Hong managing director David Fong Man-hung said its offer to hand over one floor for arts and culture development was a result of its commitment to corporate and social responsibility.

Fong said that with the fast development of culture and the art market, young artists would be an important asset for the future of Hong Kong and he hoped more property developers would join similar projects in future.

Wong said the council was in talks with Tai Po District Council about turning a secondary school building into a new self-financed artists' space.

He said the site, next to the Tai Po Civic Centre, could be appropriate for performing-arts development.

He said the district council would put in HK$50 million for renovation and a start-up fund. The council had yet to submit a final proposal.

Applications for the Wong Chuk Hang arts space will close on August 23 at 6.30pm.