Festival may help revive arts centre

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 August, 2011, 12:00am


The Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre is back on track after a troubled start and is ready to showcase local talent in an arts festival, says its executive director.

The centre at Shek Kip Mei, which provides studio space for artists, got off to a bad start in 2008. Artists complained about bureaucratic management, unusable public space, inadequate publicity and poor facilities. Visitors were unhappy to find many studios closed as a result of some artists saying they simply wanted a quiet place to work.

Lillian Hau Cheuk-ki said her team was now ready for business and planning to hold the first in an annual arts festival in December.

'Our aim is to face the public and meet the needs of society,' said Hau who took office last year.

At least a third of its resident artists will be involved in the arts festival at the converted factory building.

'While the West Kowloon Cultural District will be able to go international or provide something fancier, we are here to accommodate local art,' Hau said.

A former arts administrator with the Arts Development Council and Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation, Hau said the idea of an annual arts festival was inspired by the success of the Fotanians, a group of artists based in factory buildings near Sha Tin who organised a popular art event each January.

Dr Stella Tang Ying-chi, a tenant and curator, said the festival would complement rather than rival the Fotanians' and hopefully help change the local arts scene. 'In the past Hong Kong artists liked to shut themselves up in their studios and were thought to be out of touch with the international scene,' Tang said.

'But closing the door could mean stagnation. Now it's time to open the door, interact with people, even though they may be laymen, and show off our variety.'

About 40 artist tenants have agreed to make artworks for a flagship exhibition, ranging from photography, sculptures and pottery to Chinese ink painting and traditional paper craft.

There will also be an art fair, selling small artwork priced from several hundred dollars to HK$2,000. Another crafts fair will feature hand-made goods at even cheaper prices.

The 120 studios in the complex will be opened over two weekends during the December festival, which will also include a couple of performances in the black-box theatre, talks and art workshops.

The centre was set up by the 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.

Hau said the centre's financial situation was stable but admitted it had been difficult to secure sponsorship because of too much negative news in the past.