BY MINNIE LI
Local art magazine “Muse” shut down in December after publishing for four years while “C for Culture” closed in March.
As construction for the $21. 6 billion West Kowloon Cultural District gets underway, it is ironic that the collapse of the two magazines about art and culture has not aroused much concern.
To be built on a 40-hectare site, WKCD will house more than a dozen new cultural venues. But many people doubt the need to build these additional facilities and their effectiveness in nurturing local talents.
Instead, they feel that it is far more important to nurture an audience capable of appreciating art via education, if Hong Kong wants to squash its unwanted reputation as a cultural desert.
Otherwise, WKCD will only become another property project, like the Cyberport in Pok Fu Lam, which was billed as an initiative to promote the development of the information technology industry, but is more renowned as a residential and office development.
There is much that Hong Kong could learn from Taipei, where art penetrates every corner. For example, sculptures are found on many of its streets and they match perfectly with the environment.
The metro station at the National Dr Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is a regular venue for photo and painting exhibitions. Besides, Taiwanese love visiting bookstores and works of literature always top their lists for best-sellers.
On the contrary, Hong Kong is where capitalism penetrates every aspect of our daily life. Advertisements are everywhere to stimulate consumption. The best-selling books are often about investing and getting rich. In such a money-oriented society, art is a luxury for ordinary people.
To develop art in Hong Kong, we should start with nurturing young people. Children should be taught to enjoy and appreciate art. Only then would they fall in love with art and become regular concert-goers and museum visitors when they grow up.
A half-price discount is available to all full-time local students at most drama theatres and music concerts. By making the tickets more affordable, students can be exposed to the arts. It would be even better if a transportation subsidy could be provided to poor students who live in distant places.
The Young Friends of the Hong Kong Arts Festival, which is a branch of the Hong Kong Arts Festival company, aims to promote the arts among students. The 18-year-old organisation attracts more than 10, 000 secondary and tertiary students to become members each year. Just as it plays a vital role in exposing students to the arts, similar groups dedicated to providing art education should be given funding to expand their reach.
It is time the government and the people of Hong Kong reflected on the right way forward for the society. Could the over-reliance on real estate and finance lead us to a better life and give our future generations a promising future? Waves of demonstration against the government over its land and housing policies tell us that the answer to this question is “no” .
Hong Kong has a dynamic and diverse lifestyle, but cannot claim to be a city with a high quality of life without its population developing a capacity for appreciating art.