Since the early 2000s, the creative and cultural sectors in Hong Kong have found themselves at the centre of attention of socio-politicaland economic discussion, in both the public and academic spheres; they have become a major issue in governmental policy-making,and the bearers of much hope and many expectations. Nonetheless, little is known about the stakeholders at the core of this discourse, the individual creatives. What are the living conditions of visual artists working and living in Hong Kong? How do they go about their work, how do they earn money, how do they live their lives? In short: How do they ‘survive’?
To this point, there was no comprehensive, systematic data available on the economic livelihood of the creative population in Hong Kong. For example, the traditional employment surveys conducted, e.g. by universities, don’t necessarily apply to the alternative modes of making a living prevalent in the visual arts. Similarly, other common key indicators inadequately reflect the professional reality ofthe creative and cultural sectors.
This lack of comprehensive statistics is not merely a problem for policy-making and educational development in an area of significant market potential butmay also obscure more problematic socio-political developments. For example, arts programmes traditionally have a very high ratio of female students, yet the number of practicing female creatives in Hong Kong appears particularly low. This may be a sign of structural/systemic gender discrimination,yet no factual data to prove or disprove such notions wasavailable.
To address this issue, it was the intention of the Creative Livelihoods Project – funded by the HK Arts Development Council and the HK Research Grants Council – to produce a comprehensive survey of graduates from creative undergraduate programmes that could most likely be expected to be seeking careers as visual artists.
The primary focus of the survey was to focus on the economic situation of those graduates. However, it’s also the intention of this project to potentially identify touchpoints for improvement of the economic situation of visual artists in Hong Kong. Some visual artists self-evidently will be doing economically better than others; it would therefore be of interest to identify any shared traits in the career paths, educational history, and/or personal backgrounds of those higher earning practitioners, to see whether those might provide leverage for policy makers, education providers, and/or fundingbodies to generally improve future careers in the visual arts.
You may access the full report and its findings at the project website creative-livelihoods.org.