All for the love of art

The pace at which Hong Kong is developing its competitive edge as an international art and cultural hub is accelerating. The city’s heavy investment in upgrading cultural hardware and building new facilities, coupled with the efforts of private developers to enhance artistic elements in their properties, mean the public can enjoy a variety of art and cultural activities.

While it is not the city’s most popular pursuit, a job in the art industry certainly sounds glamorous, especially during the art months. However, Hong Kong’s youths are in a weaker position compared to overseas graduates for art-related jobs.

Well-known auction houses tend to hire people with overseas art backgrounds, and even though the government has built a number of arts and cultural centers, such as the Xiqu Centre and the M+ Museum, foreign nationals make up the majority of their senior workers.

In other words, local art development has been relying too much on foreign talents.

However, Blanche Xu, the curatorial assistant to the learning and interpretation team of M+, sees the positive side of the personnel composition within the industry in the future.

“Having worked here and engaged with the M+ team for a few years, I can see that there are more people interested in arts and culture and joining the industry while the West Kowloon Cultural District is under development,” Xu said.

Xu is one of those people, having started her journey in art and culture at M+ as a university volunteer in 2015.

After spending three years volunteering and planning activities for the M+ Summer Camp, as well as collaborating with instructors and the M+ team to implement and execute activities, Xu became project coordinator in 2018, which involved the planning and delivery of training sessions for university student volunteers.

She joined M+ as a curatorial assistant two years ago.

Summer Camp is part of the M+ Young People’s Programs, which aim to create a social space in M+ for cross-disciplinary and cross-boundary creative experiences to inspire and support young people in pursuing creativity and critical thinking through encounters with visual culture.

There are activities at a range of entry levels for visitors to partake in at the museum, that allow art enthusiasts and visitors to find comfort in the museum space – such as workshops, conversations, in-gallery activities and music performances.

“Every year, I learn something new and have a fruitful summertime at the M+ Summer Camp, which leads to my continuous devotion the next summer,” Xu said.

The experience allowed Xu to explore and experiment with the different possibilities of museum learning, and she was inspired by the fact that arts and culture are not as exclusive as she had previously thought.

“Everyone can have their own interpretation and understanding [of an artwork]. I decided to work in the field, as I wanted to share my learning experience with more people and to provide different entry points for encounters with visual culture,” she said.

Critical thinking and empathy are essentials for working on the Young People’s Programs, said Xu, who is a Christian studies graduate, disclaiming the necessity to have an art background.

“I think it is important to know your edge and interest and then learn to transfer your skillset to the workplace, as we need to face new matters and problems every day,” said Xu.

“A cross-disciplinary and cross-culture background can help us be open-minded to diverse perspectives and different challenges. I have to say it is quite important to be flexible and able to multitask when you work in such a fast-paced environment. It can also help us to better facilitate different knowledge or skills to handle problems.”

Set to open by the end of the year, M+ is planning to launch a new Young People’s Program edition. Recruitment for Young Collective, a dive-in program for young people to gain hands-on experience in event planning, will be launched this month. Details will be available on the M+ Youth Instagram and M+ Facebook page soon.

“Arts and culture have become increasingly popular among the younger generation in recent years,” said Xu. “As society continuously changes, I believe more and more people will realize the value and attraction of arts and culture.”

(This article was published at The Standard on June 22, 2021: Education: All for the love of art )

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