To HK’s young artistes — be brave and honest
executive director of the Hong Kong Arts Festival
Tisa Ho has been executive director of the Hong Kong Arts Festival since 2006, with a burning passion for the performing arts.
“I only know that I love the performing arts, I love performances, something magical happening between the stage and the audience and, sometimes, when you go to those performances, in the end after the last note, the last word, the last movement on the stage, everybody holds their breath, waiting to exhale — that’s such a perfect moment.”
She says that although she loves it so much and knowing she’s unlikely to be a performer, she seized the opportunity and immediately signed up when a
young artists. The “terrible” part is something that everybody faces all the time — there’s not enough space.
“I see young artists working elsewhere in empty factories, warehouses, those places don’t exist in Hong Kong, and everywhere you go, because there are regulations concerning health and safety, and fire escape, there’re some really funky places we’ve seen that would be great fun to do something there. Then, we friend told her about an art management course in the 1970s.
Upon graduation, she started her career in the art management industry, with one job leading to another, and ultimately landing her in her current role at the Hong Kong Arts Festival.
“I’ve been with the Hong Kong Arts Festival for 10 years now. It’s a fantastic job for me.”
There are many things that are very interesting about managing an art festival, Ho says, such as how to put the programs together or balance them as you can’t present them all. The most challenging thing, probably, concerns the finances.
“This is a thing I really have to focus on, so I don’t get to spend as much time on the artistic staff as I like, but I also have a strong development manager and wonderful committees. If there’s one method about how to make this
need to go through all the processes and, sometimes, it’s just not possible because the fire escape is not wide enough. In that sense, Hong Kong is a terrible place, really challenging.”
What’s good though, she believes, is the sense of dynamism, curiosity and boldness that prevails. Artists are willing to try anything, and audiences are willing to try most of that, so that they can communicate. There’s real curiosity and openness and, very often, it’s based on very deep thing work, that will be to find the right team.”
In her daily routine, Ho says she doesn’t need to motivate her staff.
“I think we all agree, we really love what we do. If you hate the performing arts, it would be a really hard place for you to work, so when new recruits come in, I often ask them: What do you like to do after office hours? If you think going to a show after a hard day’s work is a burden, then you probably won’t be very happy here. But, if at the end of the day, after all the paper work, it’ll make a big difference if you say you’ll go to a concert or see a show.”
She says this is actually what happens to her and her colleagues — when they rush out of work every night, she often meets them in the concert hall or theater and, the next day,
understanding of the tradition, so it’s a great place for innovation.
Ho recalls that several years ago, the festival began producing its own work. Besides inviting work and artists, it created its own productions from scratch. Some of the works have been very successful, some have re-runs, some even found their way to the Chinese mainland and overseas.
Going forward, Ho sees this something of great value that should be added to the arts they will get together and discuss it.
Ho stresses she and her colleagues are very proud of the high quality of the festival. If anything falls short of the quality they had expected, they would be very disappointed. So, everyone in the organization works very hard to make sure that such top quality can be maintained. And, if they do make the grade, that will be the best motivation for them.
Ho has this advice for Hong Kong’s young artists: Be brave and honest.
“Be really honest with yourself and with everybody else about what is it you want, and where you are going. And, it should be very clear about what your motivations and capabilities are.”
After all, it takes courage to face all that and be honest with yourself, she adds.
“These fantastic art works in Hong Kong deserve to be seen by a bigger public audience. For instance, we’ve done dance pieces this year, break dance, very Hong Kong, very positive, the dancers are so great. There are so many venues on the Chinese mainland, and I hope they can perform in a good number of those venues. So, this is a direction I would like to develop.”
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Tisa Ho believes that Hong Kong is the right place for innovation with real curiosity and openness and a deep understanding of the traditions. Tisa Ho,