Hong Kong creative arts community mourns as SCAD closes city campus

South China Morning Post

An internal memo to students and staff announced it will discontinue lessons in May; those enrolled have the option to transfer to the US or learn online

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Fashion designer Tory Burch poses with students at SCAD Hong Kong.

After 10 years in the city, Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) is closing its Hong Kong campus. According to an internal memo sent to staff and students earlier today, the university will discontinue lessons after the spring quarter ends.

“SCAD leaders in Hong Kong and the US have devoted significant time and resources to this decision, which we believe is in the best interest of students, staff, and families who are part of the international SCAD community,” Khoi Vo, SCAD Hong Kong vice-president, was quoted as saying in the memo.

While SCAD did not specify why it is leaving Hong Kong, its memo said: “The university prioritises student safety and academic quality above all else, and after a comprehensive analysis SCAD has decided to discontinue instruction at our Hong Kong location.” 

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“It’s really sad to see, since SCAD had become a source of high-quality candidates and creator of opportunities in Hong Kong – it was also so much a part of the Sham Shui Po community,” said Robert Meeder, former chair of SCAD Hong Kong.

The campus opened its doors in September 2010 in Sham Shui Po, a neighbourhood known for its apparel, fabrics and garment-related shops.

The school was part of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme (at the time, she was the Secretary of Development) with the main hub of the school in the former North Kowloon Magistracy building, which was built in 1960.

SCAD covered subjects such as graphic design, illustration, fashion marketing, photography, animation and advertising.
Photo: SCAD

The campus opened with state-of-the-art facilities including an art gallery, a green screen room, a sound design studio, editing suites and a lecture hall that had formally been a courtroom.

The building has become a landmark, not just in the neighbourhood but in the city; several creative luminaries have visited the school, including fashion designers Tory Burch and Guo Pei, and 3.1 Phillip Lim CEO Wen Zhou. It offered an innovative curriculum that covered subjects such as graphic design, illustration, fashion marketing, photography, animation and advertising.

“One of the reasons I joined SCAD is because most universities in Hong Kong didn’t teach art as part of curriculum. SCAD gave me the opportunity to be close to home and study what I want. The teachers were always available, and I loved their hands-on-approach,” says current student Natasha Wong, 23.

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The school will shut its doors at the end of May, leaving many at a loss when school starts up again in September. According to the memo, “students have the option to transition to SCAD Atlanta or SCAD Savannah or, in some cases, to complete their degrees online via SCAD e-learning”.

For many in the community, the closure of school will have an even bigger impact on the local creative scene, which SCAD has helped nurture and grow over the past decade.

Meeder said: “The overall creative industry and academia is in a state of shock from the last 12 months, and I believe the market will retract until things stabilise. However, I am a firm believer that there will always be opportunities for growth and rebuilding as a whole; we just have to make sure there are strong visionary leaders in place to take the industry and community forward.”