HKU students join Ms Anne Hayes (second from left) and Mr Glenn Davidson (first from right) of Artstation in creating the site-specific paper installation Meeting Point at the entrance of Chi Wah Learning Commons.

Art for Art’s Sake

The University Artists Scheme has expanded into new areas, widening the variety of arts and artists brought into the students’ sphere of experience. It is now one of the Arts Faculty’s flagship outreach initiatives.

Launched in 2008, the Arts Faculty’s University Artists Scheme (UAS) has brought students into contact with invited artists and given them opportunities to learn the creative process in ‘hands-on’ ways they might not otherwise experience.


Said Professor John Carroll, Associate Dean for Outreach since November 2012: “The purpose of UAS is to enrich the creative and cultural life of the University community by appointing visual and performing artists of the highest calibre; engaging students and the University community at large in interaction and dialogue on culture and the arts; and fostering greater appreciation of and lifelong involvement in the arts by integrating artists into students’ intellectual and social development.”


The first groups in 2008–2010 and 2011–2013 comprised artists in the fields of music, film and drama, and that has now been expanded to include visual artists and poets. This year’s artists are filmmaker Mr Fruit Chan, film producer Mr John Sham Kin-fun, cellist Mr Trey Lee, visual artists Ms Anne Hayes and Mr Glenn Davidson of Artstation and poet Mr Henri Cole.

From left: Mr Fruit Chan, Mr Trey Lee, Mr John Sham Kin-fun, Mr Henri Cole, Mr Glenn Davidson and Ms Anne Hayes.

The idea for UAS was hatched in 2005–2006 when the Departments of Music and Comparative Literature were already inviting musicians or filmmakers to the University to perform or interact with students. For example, in 2005 Comparative Literature hosted the film premiere of Mr Stanley Kwan’s Everlasting Regret and the Department Chairperson, the late Dr Esther Cheung, invited the director to be an artist-in-residence.


Representatives from the Departments of Comparative Literature, Fine Arts and Music then put together a proposal to expand such initiatives. With funding provided by the Wah Ching Fund, the UAS was born, enabling the Faculty to take the development of humanities to a new level.

Unlike the gallery or curated space, the university is an alternative which is deeply viable for artists. Because of this access to people who think and pay attention to things, it’s such a pleasure to have some really meaningful exchanges…

Mr Glenn Davidson

Masters of their craft


As then Vice-Chancellor Professor Lap-Chee Tsui commented at the time, not only does UAS give students “opportunities to question true masters of their craft, to have their own work critiqued by these masters and to observe how they put their amazing skills into practice… [but] the Scheme is also an excellent platform for engaging with the wider Hong Kong community. One of our institutional aims is to promote knowledge exchange and to encourage creative and critical thought

in everyone.”


Artists are chosen by a committee comprising the Associate Dean for Outreach and representatives from the Departments of Comparative Literature, Music and Fine Arts, as well as, more recently, the School of English. The main criteria are that the artists be of excellent standard and that their portfolio complements Arts’ existing syllabus. While few students become artists, many of them will work with artists in various capacities. The UAS gives them the opportunity to understand creative processes.


Funding is vital to the continued excellence of the UAS: Dr Alice Lam is providing the funding for the current UAS term (2014–2016); Dr Tam Wah-ching supported the original 2008–2010 scheme and the 2011–2013 scheme was funded by Mr Daniel Chan.


Usually, participating artists will be involved in six activities – including class visits, public talks, performances, master classes and workshops – during their two-year appointment. Thousands of people, including members of the University and the wider community, have benefited from these activities – most of which are free – over the nine years that the Scheme has been running.


So far in the current UAS, cellist Mr Trey Lee has given two master classes to students in the Advanced Music Performance class and involved HKU students in his three Musicus concerts, which also featured renowned international musicians. In addition to Trey’s performance, the concert programme included the world premiere of a work by HKU PhD candidate Mr Gordon Fung Dic-lun. HKU students were also involved in putting together the programme notes for the three performances through their participation in the Musicus Inspires! education initiative launched by the Musicus Society in partnership with UNICEF Hong Kong.

Award-winning cellist Mr Trey Lee (right) holds two master classes with students from the Department of Music’s Advanced Music Performance course.

Mr John Sham has conducted three class visits, including two to Common Core courses. He also participated in a public talk with filmmaker Mr Derek Yee in November, 2014. Mr Fruit Chan gave a public talk in February and is currently conducting a scriptwriting workshop for HKU students. Mr Henri Cole has conducted a public poetry reading and a talk on campus, as well as a class visit. He has also met with local writers to discuss the creative process.

Renowned film producer Mr John Sham (right) conducts three class visits for sharing with students his past experience and perspective on Hong Kong film industry.

Apart from discussing his recent film The Midnight After in a talk, Mr Fruit Chan (left) leads a scriptwriting workshop for HKU students.

American poet Mr Henri Cole at the Master Poet event held in November, 2014.

Artstation’s Ms Anne Hayes and Mr Glenn Davidson were in residence at the University from January 30 to February 14 this year, and involved students in creating Meeting Point, a paper sculpture designed for and assembled in the Learning Commons entrance lobby. Five students from Dr Koon Yee-wan’s class followed the project from day one. They created panels explaining the project and took photos of the various stages involved in its production that were exhibited in Chi Wah Learning Commons next to the Meeting Point installation.


Novel perspectives


Ms Saehim Park, a second-year Fine Arts student commented: “As a future art historian, talking to Anne and Glenn inspired me with novel perspectives. I got to see how the theories and methods I learned in class applied to the reality of artistic creation. It was an unusual opportunity, not only to be engaged with the making process of an artwork, but also to share the story, impression and understanding with the artists. I love abstract and non-figurative art, especially how it bears the infinite potential for imagination. I am grateful for the freedom it gives, the visual frisson and the Meeting Point.


Artstation are planning two more visits in 2016 and students will be involved in the proposed projects. Asked what UAS gives to artists themselves, Mr Davidson said: “Unlike the gallery or curated space, the University is an alternative which is deeply viable for artists. Because of this access to people who think and pay attention to things, it’s such a pleasure to have some really meaningful exchanges where you feel you are learning and you can see the benefit to others learning from what you do. And they see things that we don’t see in the work. Out in the world of art, it is very tough and competitive and edgy. Here in the University it’s not like that. It’s more protected and special, it’s an

enormous relief.”

Students have the opportunity to work closely with the two artists in creating the installation made up of recycled paper.