To HK’s young artistes — be brave and hon­est

China Daily (Canada) - - HONG KONG - By SO­PHIE HE in Hong Kong so­phiehe@chi­nadai­

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.”

Con­tact the writer at so­phiehe@chi­nadai­


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,

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