Established in 1977, the Hong Kong Arts Centre (HKAC) is a non-profit making, self financing arts organization which focuses on promoting contemporary arts and culture within and across the border, with facilities including theatres, a cinema, galleries, classrooms, studios, a café and office space. Over the past three decades, the Arts Centre has become one of the Hong Kong’s best known and respected art entities, providing a wide range of programmes featuring local and overseas artists. It is dedicated to serving as a unique platform to bridge art and the community.
In the late 1960s, the City Hall was the only venue for contemporary arts in Hong Kong and there was a serious lack of space for art and cultural activities. In 1968, several art associations and groups wrote to the Hong Kong Government to request the grant of a piece of land on which to build an arts centre. Mr. S. F. Bailey, the Secretary General of the University Grants Committee at that time, led the campaign. He officially obtained legal rights for the group in June 1971 and successfully acquired a piece of reclaimed land near Gloucester Road in Wan Chai from the government after years of negotiation. It was a time when anything seemed possible.
Afterwards, Mr. Bailey, together with the art associations, ran an extensive fund-raising campaign to generate money and interest in the idea of an arts centre, whilst simultaneously launching the actual construction. Unfortunately, only half of the required $28 million was raised. The construction ground to a halt and was not able to continue due to lack of funds. The establishment of the Hong Kong Arts Centre would not have been possible without the help of Hong Kong Governor, Sir. MacLehose, who eventually applied for loans using a government warrant. Dr. Choh-Ming Li, the first Vice-Chancellor of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, was the first Chairman of the Arts Centre, Sir. Run Run Shaw was the first Vice-chairman, and Mr. Neil Duncan was invited to Hong Kong from the UK as the first General Manager. The Hong Kong Arts Centre was inaugurated by the Governor on 14th October, 1977, and was a new phenomenon in that time. Thirty years on, the Hong Kong Arts Centre remains true to the original vision of its founders, and serves as a unique platform for nurturing artists and culture, and has become one of the flagships for the contemporary arts in Hong Kong .
Without the support and pivotal role of Dr. Tao Ho, Mr. Bill Bailey and Dr. Lo King Man, the Hong Kong Arts Centre would not have come into being. Dr. Tao Ho was responsible for designing the Arts Centre. Influenced by Bauhaus architectural style, he turned an area of 10,000 square feet into a 19-storey building, incorporating Eastern and Western concepts over a period of 5 years. The Centre won him a Silver Medal from the Hong Kong Institute of Architects in 1978. Mr. Bailey was Secretary of the University Grants Committee at that time and his benevolent support, and inspired vision and leadership triggered the development of local culture’s potentials. Dr. Lo King Man helped make the dream of building a unique arts centre possible.
Since the official opening in 1977, the two-storey Pao Galleries have exhibited the works of a lot of masters from both the East and the West. Exhibitions have always been the crucial element of the Arts Centre. In the run-up to 1997, when the sovereignty of Hong Kong was about to be handed over to China, the Arts Centre held a number of exhibitions and art festivals that explored local art, culture and history, arousing the concern of the public about local cultural identity in different art forms.
In 1984, the Arts Centre established an Education Department to promote art education in the community. Art courses included ceramics and digital art. The Hong Kong Arts Centre collaborated with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology to launch the first part-time Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art curriculum in 1998. The Hong Kong Art School, an extension arm of the Hong Kong Arts Centre, was established in 2000, and is an accredited institute run by a group of dedicated artists. The focus of its award-bearing curriculum lies in four core academic areas, namely, Fine Art, Applied Art, Media Art, and Drama Education. Its scope covers programmes with academic levels ranging from Foundation Diploma to Higher Diploma, Bachelor Degree to Master Degree. The short courses and the outreach projects of the School run parallel to the award-bearing curriculum and span an even wider variety of artistic disciplines. With its recent acquisition of a campus site in Shau Kei Wan), the School aims at further bridging art and the community.
Art education has always been a key aspect that the Centre places heavy emphasis on. In 2001, the Aesthetic Education Programme was founded by the Hong Kong Arts Centre's Art School, based on the model of aesthetic education that is practiced at the Lincoln Center Institute (LCI), New York. The Hong Kong Arts Centre and the Art School are working closely together with Aesthetic Education to bring art to primary and secondary schools. For the past few years, the HKAC has contributed significant administrative and financial support to help it grow, and in 2009, it became a co-work partner to promote art education to schools. It is the only institute practicing the aesthetic education model in the South East Asia region.
The Hong Kong Arts Centre has a strong belief that art has its own soothing and healing power. For more than a decade, the Centre has dedicated full financial, administrative and office rental support to a community project, Art in Hospitals (AIH). This project started in April 1994 and was later registered as a non-profit making charitable organization in 2003. The Arts Centre helps serve the community and the development of hospital art in Hong Kong.
Since 1995, the Hong Kong Arts Centre has been hosting the annual Hong Kong Independent Short Film and Video Awards (ifva) which has become one of the signature programmes of the Centre. ifva follows the mission of the Centre and has successfully proven to be the cradle of local and Asian creative filmic talents. It aims at developing and nurturing the next generation of moving images. In 1997, ifva set up the newly formed youth category, bringing video art to secondary and primary schools. ifva has now become a nurturing ground for new talent in the aspects of commercial and independent cinema, animation and interactive media.
Furthermore, as an additional benefit to the community, the Centre has always been a cradle for nurturing local artist. Mr. Jim Chim, a popular household name in Hong Kong, once remarked “My artistic life was born and developed here at the Arts Centre.” In 2004, the Hong Kong Arts Centre collaborated with the Theatre Ensemble to run an innovative artistic concept “PIP”(Pleasure In Play), conducting drama workshops with “fun” and “educational” aspects, sharing with the community the essential * joy of the arts .
“Interaction” and “boundary crossing” are the keys to incorporating art into the community, and public Art plays a vital role in this. In 2005, Public Art Hong Kong (PAHK) was established as a non-profit making organization funded by the Y.K.Pao Foundation with the Hong Kong Arts Centre as its executing organization, actively presenting various art pieces in the city, creating an interactive relationship between the artwork, the site and the audience. It intends to promote public art and reflect public interest while featuring Hong Kong as a vibrant cultural city.
Another breakthrough between the boundaries of performers and audiences is the Street Music series which attracts both art and non art-lovers to explore different art forms. This project succeeds in promoting non-mainstream music as a medium of interaction with the local community, and uses public space as a new platform for live music performance in dynamic styles, ranging from alternative pop, to improvisation, experimental and classical music. This music programme has had a cluster effect, allowing more outreach to local music groups and programmes in the community. The Street Music Series started its monthly series of concerts with its debut performance on 15th May 2009. Its events are free to the public.
HKAC successfully acquired a piece of reclaimed land near Gloucester Road in Wan Chai from the Government
HKAC was registered as a non-profit, self-financing arts organization
Mr. Tao Ho won the Silver Medal awarded by the Hong Kong Institute of Architects with the design of the HKAC building
HKAC established its Education Department which offered courses on arts and culture, including ceramics and computer arts
The Recital Hall of HKAC was reconstructed as the first Agnès b CINEMA! in Hong Kong
The first issue of ArtsLink, a monthly magazine published by HKAC, was released in May
Hong Kong Arts Centre started to develop hospital art in Hong Kong by dedicating full financial, administrative and office rental support to the Art in Hospital (AIH), and was later registered as a non-profit charitable organization since 2003.
HKAC started hosting the Hong Kong Independent Short Film and Video Awards (ifva)
The Education Department of HKAC launched Hong Kong’s first part-time degree programme on fine art, in collaboration with RMIT University of Australia
The Education Department of HKAC was officially upgraded to the Hong Kong Art School (HKAS) in January
The Aesthetic Education Programme was founded by the Art School of Hong Kong Arts Centre, based on the model of aesthetic education practiced at the Lincoln Center Institute (LCI), New York.
Hong Kong Arts Centre collaborated with the Theatre Ensemble for running an innovative artistic concept “PIP”(Pleasure In Play)
HKAC became the executing organization of Public Art Hong Kong (PAHK)
30th Anniversary of the HKAC and a “30th Anniversary Exhibition” was held in August 2008
HKAC and Aesthetic Education become co-work partner to promote art education in schools. With the Government’s Land Grant/ Vacant School Premises Scheme, HKAS acquired a new school site in Shau Kei Wan. The new school started its operation in July.