A business-like approach to the arts

by Carmen To

News every month from the world of academia

Sunny Lam (left), programme leader and lecturer; Wylie Chan, programme coordinator and lecturer, higher diploma in communications design, applied & media arts programme, Hong Kong Art School
Photo: Tony Yu

The primary focus of the Hong Kong Art School may be to inspire students to develop their creativity in visual arts, but there is also a clear secondary purpose — providing local creative industries with the versatile talent needed to do well in a competitive commercial environment.

"The rise of the creative sector is part of Hong Kong's transformation from being essentially a manufacturing-based economy," says Sunny Lam, lecturer and programme leader of the school's applied and media arts programmes. "People have rediscovered the fact that culture can be an important resource for economic development." Mr Lam points out that the visual arts not only have value in the world of business, but can also add something to society.

The media arts programmes currently on offer include courses on computer animation and digital movie making. Formal government recognition was given in 2003 and further modules, covering topics such as interior design, advertising, and furniture and home products, will be added.

"The higher diploma programmes aim to teach students the importance of traditional culture and to value their own creativity," explains Wylie Chan, lecturer and programme coordinator in communications design. There are two-year full-time and three-year part-time options and, for the latter, classes are arranged on weekday evenings and weekend afternoons. Students can also expect to learn presentation skills and marketing strategies to equip them with a business-like approach for their future careers.

"Our unique approach is to combine the concepts of fine arts with an understanding of the market," says Mr Lam. "In this, we are helped by local art practitioners, and we also encourage students to display their work in exhibitions as a way of getting useful feedback."

Study tours and seminars are organised to give students wider exposure to different influences and to share experiences with outstanding artists from around the world. One recent trip was to Japan for an architectural exhibition. "We also look at art in advertising and give students the opportunity to work on projects which combine theory and practice," says Mr Lam. "This allows them to sharpen their commercial thinking, as well as their hands-on skills."

He emphasises that the aim of the programmes is to bring art and business together and to teach students how to adapt to market demand. Their success in overseas contests such as poster design competitions in Japan show that this approach is bearing fruit. "I can also see great potential for multi-media interactive installations and online gaming development," Mr Lam says. "If we have our own talent to work in those two areas, there will be good prospects ahead. Online games have really taken off in China and the good thing is that many more people now have access to them."

Taken from Career Times 21 July 2006
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