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June 2018
A Tale of Two Generations in A Family Attending the Same University - HKBU
This is a story of two generations in a family that has its root in HKBU and in the world of art and design. Sunnie Chan (Communications), a curator, a Research Associate of Hong Kong Visual Culture of M+ Museum for Visual Culture, and a Project Consultant of Gallery 27, as well as daughter of Alan Chan, a famous designer and branding guru. Yet, what drives her to pursue a master’s degree in Communication in HKBU is perhaps, her mother, an alumna of HKBU.

Family Root at HKBU – A University of Family Tradition

When asked if her mother who also studied Public Relations & Advertising in the School of Communication had any influence on her choice of studies, Sunnie’s reply was affirmative. “Mom used to study in a traditional secondary school in Hong Kong and underwent, so to speak, an examination-oriented education. Therefore, mom was not given much opportunity to think independently, be creative and learn to innovate. Studying at HKBU, however, was a critical turning point to her mom. “This is a place where mom was given the freedom to decide what to learn and how to learn, pushing beyond her boundaries to explore unlimited possibilities.” She added, “Mom told me that life at the Communications School in HKBU was an eye-opening and inspiring experience.” HKBU provides Sunnie’s mom a precious learning experience. “Teachers are veterans in the field.” Sunnie added. “They are also dedicated teachers, life-long mentors and friends. They are the ones who connect students and employers when students move through their university experience and into the real world.” Sunnie’s mom joined a design firm right after graduating from HKBU where she met her better half. “My parents have complementary strengths. HKBU’s comprehensive training on public relations and communication skills enables mom to perform well both as the public face of the company and as the business manager in charge of the back office .” Apparently, her mom’s experience with HKBU has a profound impact on Sunnie. “Communications has always been my dream subject.” Sunnie also admitted that the university life at HKBU never failed to fascinate her. She completed her bachelor degree with a double major in film studies and art history in the UK. Following in her mom’s footsteps, Sunnie pursued a master’s degree in Communication at HKBU shortly after her return from the UK and chose the same major as her mom.

What Do Curators Do?

When wandering around an art exhibit or gallery, do you ever wonder about all the steps it took to put an exhibition together? People who work behind the scene, for months or even years, are curators. Sunnie shared her curatorial experience in putting together exhibitions. “Our role there includes designing and planning a show, creating texts, selecting and presenting art pieces, meeting artists, and preparing core visual for exhibit and all relevant materials for a show to ensure that the exhibition be done successfully.” She stressed, “for every exhibition and show, we would like to bring fresh perspectives to the artifacts.” Communication skill is therefore vital.

The Challenge of Being a Curator

“A successful curator needs to communicate with the artists on one hand, and interpret the underlying meaning of each piece of artwork the artists would like to bring out.” One of the biggest challenges is that artists very often are very subtle in their messages and it may not be easy for the public to comprehend the meaning behind their works. The role of curators is to bridge that gap and her skills learned at HKBU are particularly relevant and helpful. Her skills learned from HKBU also allowed her to win trust easily from artists whom she works with. “Once you established a mutual understanding and a sense of trust with the artists, they will believe in your approach to their work.” Another challenge is that nowadays art does not just take place in galleries, but in various platforms: websites, social media etc. Therefore, we as curators need to carefully craft and weave all platforms together so that art can easily be accessible to the general public.”

A Memorable and Rewarding Moment

In the hustle and bustle of cosmopolitan Hong Kong, the world of art is often overlooked. But to Sunnie, artwork has a lot more to offer in the city. The most rewarding part, to her, is the moment when an art exhibition has impacted others. She remembered once that a mother took her kid all the way from Tin Shui Wai to her gallery on Hong Kong Island in an afternoon after the kid’s completion of examination in the morning. Knowing that the boy was a fan of the artist in that exhibition, Sunnie invited the artist to drop by the gallery and took a photo with the little boy. The boy was so excited and spent the entire afternoon at the gallery and started to paint. “It is so rewarding to see that you create opportunities for people to learn and help people enjoy art to the fullest.”

Tips To be a Curator

When asked what advice she has for her younger peers to become a curator, Sunnie stressed that “first and foremost, curators should have an artistic and aesthetic sense which can be trained. Additionally, they should be equipped with professional knowledge of contemporary art history and curatorship and be open-minded to learn. Last but not least, paying visits to galleries and exhibitions regularly would be important.”

Sunnie (left) presented to audience the theme of a painting at the poster exhibition entitled "Graphic Trial Hong Kong Edition" in 2017
Image Courtesy: Gallery 27
Sunnie was the curator of the Hong Kong Edition of the Asia Tour in the exhibition of "A Designer's Heart", Sori Yanagi Exhibition in 2015
Image Courtesy: Gallery 27
Sunnie involved in the exhibition management and promotion for the exhibition of "Very Hong Kong Very Hong Kong" held in 2017
Image Courtesy: "Very Hong Kong Very Hong Kong"
Back to The BUddy Post June 2018

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