New Arts Power (NAP), a Hong Kong-wide festival covering dance, music, drama, multimedia arts and visual arts, gets underway this month, flying a flag for local artists and a uniquely local interpretation of life. Initiated by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (HKADC), and funded by the Hong Kong  Jockey Club Charities Trust, the festival runs until late January.

Although NAP’s exhibitions and performances officially start in the second half of this month, outreach activities began in June through a number of community elements – including workshops at schools, in homes for the elderly and at adult and juvenile correctional institutions. The festival’s wide-ranging programme includes exhibitions of the work of multimedia proponent Kingsley Ng and ceramicist and sculptor Annie Wan; a three-day showcase of dance and choreography featuring, among others, works by Victor Fung and Hugh Cho; and music performances that include the a capella harmonies of the Yat Po Singers, jazz-fusion by SIU2, and folk and alternative rock performers, such as the prominent and prolific Jabin Law and his band.

One of the most intriguing performances is the mobile theatre production My Luxury 50 sqft Life by Cinematic Theatre Company, which is touring more than 20 locations in Hong Kong in a 5.5-tonne truck. This follows its appearances at Taipei and Edinburgh fringe festivals – in fact, while performing overseas is one criterion for participation in NAP, another is that performers or artists are relative newcomers to the local arts scene. This all adds up to some edgy work being showcased, as homegrown talents return to the arena that first nourished them.

We asked the chairman of organising body HKADC, Dr Wilfred Wong, to explain the concept behind New Arts Power. An arts-festival veteran, Wong is also currently chairman of the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

How do you describe New Arts Power? On the one hand, it’s a festival, on the other, a community-minded project.

It’s a celebration of the success of our local artists. It’s also a community project – we want to make sure that artists who have been well received overseas get known in Hong Kong.

In the past few years the ADC has worked harder to get local artists and performers into overseas art events. It really started with the Manhattan Hong Kong Music Festival in 2012. That went down well and ever since then we got more active with taking them [a variety of acts] to performing-arts markets in Asia, Australia and Europe. We’ve helped artists enter the Venice Biennale for the past
12 years and in the last three editions we did it jointly with M+. It became the curator – and since then we spotlighted just one artist only and that went really well for those artists.

HKADC has taken artists to Europe, Australia and Asia. What have the international reactions been like?

They started getting invitations left, right and centre to perform at world-renowned festivals, and many of
the visual artists got their works acquired by
big museums.

Is there anything in NAP or local fine art generally that stands out as showing that Hong Kong is producing work that’s either in keeping with world art trends or has a unique local element to it?

The contemporary art scene now is more multimedia and thought-provoking. And if you look at [installation artist] Tsang Kin-wah, or Samson Young who works in sound art, they’re very in keeping with this.

For dance, I think in modern dance circles, [choreographer] Victor Fung is very welcomed; he’s taken part in many arts festivals. I think his dance has Hong Kong elements in it – when you see it you feel the energy of Hong Kong.

How often do HKADC-related art projects include community projects and short performances in malls and other public places?

Audience development is part of our mission. For instance, we have an Arts Ambassador-in-School Scheme, which encourages 1,300 primary and secondary students to be active in promoting arts in their schools – it also makes parents realise that arts should be allowed to be part of their children’s lives and that they should pursue them if they want to. I grew up in a time when the arts were not taken seriously as an option – we were encouraged to become an accountant or something. Now, I think things have changed.

And we always try to arrange for any artists that we work with to get involved in outreach of some kind. This is the first time that we’ve created a focus on it though – it’s a central theme that we want to get more public recognition for artists too.

Audiences at public-housing estates may be quite elderly and they usually go to see Cantonese opera – but we want to show them that there’s more to the arts. I think these days the elderly are more interested to see what younger people are doing; they’re more open-minded.

Is this festival a good indication of Hong Kong’s strength and diversity in contemporary arts?

Hong Kong is ready for the next level. Our local artists are becoming more mature in what they’re doing; they’ve become more recognised around the world and they should be here, too.