Visual arts academy to stay at Kai Tak campus - for HK$1 a month
Baptist University's visual arts academy will be able to extend the government lease of its heritage campus in Kai Tak for 10 years at a nominal monthly rent of HK$1, down from the HK$50,000 it paid for six years.
The Academy for Visual Arts succeeded after a two-year battle to beat back the government's plan to raise the monthly rent to HK$300,000 for the grade-one historic building that used to be a Royal Air Force station.
The institution was now ready to expand in outreach, research and academic programmes, academy director John Aiken told the South China Morning Post.
"I'm very excited," Aiken said. "[The academy] is now in a more secure situation."
In 2004, the university received the Kai Tak site to house its academy, then newly established, while plans were under way to build a HK$237 million Communication and Visual Arts building in Kowloon Tong.
The university spent HK$19.1 million on renovations and paid rent of HK$50,000 a month.
Students and alumni protested last year when the Government Property Agency sought to renew the lease with a sixfold rent increase, to HK$300,000.
Students said the new Kowloon Tong building could not meet their needs and that the heritage site was an integral part of the academy. The government then decided to extend the lease for another year while the academy prepared a proposal on its future use of the campus.
Aiken said the Kai Tak site would remain as a research hub to host symposiums, artist residency programmes and a five-year community drive with HK$23 million from the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation.
It would also cultivate a studio culture and set up a young artists' agency to help students develop a professional career, he said. "We hope to prepare the students with entrepreneurial skills."
The academy has put in place a HK$1 million start-up fund for students to form companies based on their business proposals, to be related to visual arts.
It is hoped that profits from the students' companies will go back into the fund so the scheme "can carry on indefinitely".
Aiken, who came into the job amid debate on the Kai Tak campus, hoped to expand the research culture. He said they were in the process of a research assessment exercise that he hoped would help define how non-traditional research could further knowledge in visual arts.
Aiken said the HK$700,000 raised from auctions last year would be used to support student proposals and he hoped similar auctions could be held in future.