Track Sessions I

C. Arts, Culture and Heritage for Social Causes: 'How can we increase the contribution of the arts to social inclusion and empowerment?'


  • Bernard CHAN President, Asia Financial Holdings
  • Tisa HO Executive Director, Hong Kong Arts Festival
  • Lynn YAU CEO, The Absolutely Fabulous Theatre Connection


  • Gaurav GUPTA Regional Director, Dalberg Advisors

This panel discussed the importance of the arts to wider societal inclusion and fostering socio-emotional skills among youth, and how its impact could be tangibly measured.

To start off, the panellists reflected on what attracted them to speaking on this theme. Ms Lynn Yau said her organisation came into being to use the arts to enable social mobility for vulnerable, disenfranchised youth. Their approach was to build socio-emotional skills in the city’s youth, something the HK education system did not fully provide for. She saw the arts as being a great ‘social equalizer’ (“we are all equal in front of art”) and explained how they were utilised to treat mental conditions like autism, as well as to broaden HK’s usually-narrow definition of success and failure at a societal level.

Ms Tisa Ho shared her belief in the arts as a gateway to foster empathy among youth, which was one of the most important socio-emotional skills. Mr Bernard Chan talked about his long association with the subject, having studied studio art at university, and the importance of preserving local culture and ‘heritage’ through the arts, something he had learnt from his role with Tai Kwun.

The panel had divided views on measuring the outcomes of investing in the arts. Everyone agreed that promotion of the arts led to positive outcomes on society, but they had difficulty in defining tangible key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure it qualitatively and quantitatively.

The group also discussed the responsibility that came with building art. It could be non-inclusive if it reinforced certain ideas as more desirable – for example, the idea of success and beauty projected in popular culture. Hence, a curator of art had the responsibility to maintain the quality of artefacts by ensuring their inclusiveness and the inspiration that people could draw from it. The panellists shared examples of performances that moved their audiences like the Mamma Mia musical in London and the premiere of the upcoming movie, Distinction, which had triggered empathetic responses that were rare to see.

Before the end of the session, HKJC Chairman Mr Anthony Chow said he appreciated the efforts of Mr Chan in bringing Tai Kwun to life. He noted that Tai Kwun had begun with a target of 1,000,000 visitors in its first year but was already over 800,000 mark in just four months since its opening. He said this exemplified how KPIs needed to go beyond performance management to truly measure the impact that artefacts had on society.

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