Funding The Arts: The Hong Kong Arts Festival
1,400 renowned artists from around the world, 119 performances, one festival that has stood the test of time – The Hong Kong Arts Festival, a tribute to art in all its multitudinous splendour, recently celebrated its 44th edition. The diverse programming traverses effortlessly through different genres and art forms, covering everything from contemporary dance to chamber opera, Western Classical to music of the world, also including a focus on emerging artists and new local talent. In a modern day cultural atmosphere where arts funding poses innumerable challenges to festival organizers worldwide who often find themselves hitting brick walls when it comes to monetizing their artistic ventures, Associate Programme Director So Kwok-wan opens up to IndiEarth about how the festival has been able to financially sustain itself as long as it has.
“The consistent government support to fund the festival has been integral to it being able to last through the years” he explains, “we have also successfully solicited from charity organizations, corporations and individuals, and are grateful for our loyal festival audiences and new audiences who appreciate our programmes and support them through ticket purchase and participation in the activities we organize.The consistently high quality and unique international and local programmes that the Festival has been able to present each year helps us receive this support”.
Though the usual avenues of government funding, public investment and traditional philanthropy make up the bulk of the funds the festival receives, the organization also makes it a point to tap into alternative revenue streams and sources of funding to monetize the overall vision. One way they do this is by organizing educational outreach programs that are aimed at audience engagement and nurturing future audiences. Young Friends of the Hong Kong Arts Festival is one such initiative, an integrated arts program that provides in depth arts education to students, aimed at spreading knowledge and enhancing the youth’s appreciation for the fine arts. “The Sir Edward Youde Memorial Fund has been supporting Young Friends even since its establishment in 1992, and Young Friends has received the generous support of Deutsche Bank and Tencent Foundation as Corporate Sponsors,” explains So, “As of 2015, Young Friends has reached nearly 700,000 students and recruited around 140,000 members”.
It is also the particularly high standard and quality of programming that ensures the festival receives the kind of support it does every year at the box office. As Programme Director, one of So’s priorities is ensuring diversity in the showcases – and this year decided to shine a spotlight on Indian Classical traditions. “When I listened to Maestro Jayanthi Kumaresh’s Veena concert in India at the IndiEarth XChange, I was blown away and decided to curate a small focus of Indian music during our World Music Weekend series,” he smiles, “My experience at IndiEarth XChange was wonderful, although it was just 3 days, the varieties, the standard of music from India and abroad was exceptional. For me, it is a pity if we are only tuned in to Western Classical music and lose interest in listening to the great treasures of music from countries like India. So by presenting great Indian classical/contemporary music in our festival we hope to raise the awareness of our audience’s attention to Indian music, and perhaps even encourage more dialogue between Indian music and Chinese music”.