THE names are taken from every spectrum of the Hongkong arts community, and they read like a Who's Who : Benny Chia, Oscar Ho, Raymond To, Katusha Tsui, Richard Tsang Yip-fat, Cheung Fai, Hon Chi-fun, John Fung, Ip Kwok-bun, Lau Kin-wai. The list goeson - for another 67 names. What do these people have in common - other than being pillars of the artistic community? Each one has had a little help from the Asian Cultural Council. For 24 years, this affiliate of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund has singled out worthy applicants to become recipients of generous grants - be they extended trips to New York City or steel drum seminars in West Virginia. ''We are targeting people in the arts who have already finished their education and are functioning as professionals,'' said Michelle Vosper, the ACC's Hongkong representative. ''They have taken the risk and are committed to it.'' Hence the ACC's relaxed approach to candidates' qualifications: no age or educational limits, but they must have been a Hongkong resident for three years and be involved in the visual or performing arts. The council will not fund undergraduate studies, but does sponsor Ph.D and masters degrees. This year, 14 people received a total of HK$1.8 million. They were musicologist Maria Chow, composer Wong Sun-keung, photographer Almond Chu, painter Chu Hing-wah, choreographer and dancer Allen Lam, arts administrator Wong Wo-bik, architect William Liu,dance students Kan Tsui and Koala Yip, video artist May Fung, percussionists Lung Heung-wing and Leung Wai-wa, viola student Cecilia Ho and installation artist Sydney Pun. The grants enable the artists to make professional visits to the United States where the ACC office in New York will arrange individual programmes for them. ''It is a turning point for a lot of people,'' said Ms Vosper. ''Often, they come back and make it in their profession. [It] develops their confidence.'' For Wong Sun-keung, the grant is a dream come true. In December, he will find himself in New York City, walking the streets of Broadway. ''I want to see as much music theatre in New York as possible, and I want to learn more recording techniques,'' he said. Wong will spend almost a year soaking up New York's more avant garde theatrical productions. ''This grant for me is a chance to change something. I'm lucky that I've been so busy, I work a lot, but [in Hongkong] the theatre is just a few people. ''I will see more people and projects if I go to New York. I spoke to one of last year's grantees and he said he saw 200 performances in one year,'' said Wong. ''It is time for me to think about the past few years and reflect. I will see what happens and take it back to Hongkong.'' Not all grant recipients stay as long. Lung Heung-wing and Leung Wai-wa are going to the US for a mere two weeks. The two Hongkong Philharmonic percussionists will take time off from the structured traditional world of rhythms to explore their favourite pastime - ethnic drumming. Having instructed themselves in African drumming, the two will head for the hills of West Virginia to tackle steel drumming. ''We wanted to try something new,'' said Lung. ''It is a completely different art form. Hongkong is an international city but there is no African or South American influence on the culture. ''Hongkong is still a very Chinese city, but with some Western elements. We want to put together something that has never happened before.'' So inspired were they by Caribbean music, that one day they found a set of oil drums, took out a sledge hammer and began to pound out a set of steel drums. ''We managed to make something that looked like steel drums, but it didn't sound like them - they're very hard to make,'' Lung said. It was this kind of ingenuity and determination that convinced the ACC to sponsor the duo's trip to the US$7,000 steel drum seminar, including air fares, ground transport, room and board. ''We do everything for them,'' said Ms Vosper. ''We make connections with people for them, find them housing, buy them the air ticket, meet them at the airport, take them to the doctor, buy them a winter coat. We've been doing this for 30 years.'' Applications for the 1994 grants will be accepted this autumn. The deadline is January 15, 1994. For information, call 895-0407.