Top stars launch Renaissance Foundation for young artists in HK

Musicians, writers and filmmakers join to fund and support local talent on a cultural mission, launched in HK, that will extend across region

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 October, 2012, 3:56am

A foundation set up by some of China's cultural stars is promising to fund and groom independent arts projects in the region.

Artists including musician Anthony Wong Yiu-ming, author Han Han and top filmmakers Pang Ho-cheung, Jia Zhangke and Zhang Yuan have formed the Renaissance Foundation.

The private non-profit group will finance and mentor projects in music, film and literature.

Registered in Hong Kong, its funding will come from local sources as well as the mainland. The foundation is planning to accept up to 24 funding applications - four in music, 10 in literature and 10 in film - towards the end of this year and is expected to hand out the first batch of grants next spring.

Details on the ceilings for each project are yet to be decided.

Wong, chairman of the foundation's nine-member executive council, hoped the new grants could complement existing funding on arts and culture that is dominated by the government.

"Many interesting creative projects or initiatives come from the community, not from a top-down model. The government can play a supporting role," said Wong, a music veteran and a member of duo Tat Ming Pair.

"When money and the economy have become larger than life, we feel that we need to do something about it," he said.

"The cultural ecology is not catching up with the economic development here.

"If Hong Kong wants to promote culture and creative industries, there should be more of these [private] initiatives."

The Home Affairs Bureau and the Hong Kong Arts Development Council are the major funding sources for arts and cultural projects in the city and there are few private grants available for local artists.

Pure Art Foundation, founded by Hong Kong's pioneering woman club DJ Abby Lai and her husband, James Soutar, offers grants to emerging artists in disciplines from independent film to visual arts and architecture.

The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation supports arts and culture and educational projects with ties to Chinese traditions in Hong Kong and the region.

And the Lee Hysan Foundation supports arts-related initiatives, such as the Asian Cultural Council Lee Hysan Fellowship.

Wong said members of Renaissance Foundation's executive council - who also include film director and critic Shu Kei and Taiwanese music producer and lyricist Yao Chien - were still actively seeking donations.

He said the main reason for choosing Hong Kong to launch the foundation was because of the city's great potential to nurture cultural activities.

"It is easy to source funding here. And Hong Kong has the best freedom of expression and speech."

Wong said while screening the applications, the foundation would be looking at a project's independent spirit rather than the applicant's age.

"Society relies too heavily on mainstream values and aesthetics. We need to be independent from those values," he said.

Executive council members will also act as mentors.

The foundation will be launched with a two-day, free outdoor cultural festival, Renaissance 2012, at the West Kowloon Cultural District on November 24 and 25 with performances, film screenings and discussion forums featuring musical acts and artists from across China.