A trio of Hong Kong friends thought about the best way to heal Hong Kong as a community after the traumas of recent times and came up with a simple but transformative idea.
What if people just set aside politics and other concerns for a while and did something creative, which would be good for their hearts? And they could produce not just small works for their own personal satisfaction, but art which was big and public which encapsulated a positive, shared, community experience?
The result was Paint Beautiful Hong Kong – a program in which ordinary people paint large murals on the city’s buildings, under the guidance of a professional artist.
The program was a hit. In just three years, the group has produced more than 23 murals on Hong Kong walls, and has a list of 1,200 volunteers.
“We have long recognised the positive impact of public art on communities and how it adds enormous value to improving culture, living environment, and mental health,” says spokesperson Vikky Tam. “It helps strengthen community identity, fosters a sense of pride and belonging, and enhances the quality of life for residents.”
The secret of their success? Well, first, the three women behind the project were high-powered business people, very capable of running organisations—and they were wise enough to hire a professional artist to make sure the art produced was of a high standard.
The three women were Vikky Tam, an entrepreneur; Elizabete Fong, a Macau-born marketer; and Nancy Leung, a financial specialist. They have been joined by other helpers, including Karen Chan and Ricky Cheng.
All three original women were presidents of Rotary Clubs, which gave them a shared bond, and a strong urge to serve the community. To keep the artistic standard high, they work with Riitta Kuisma, a Finnish visual artist who has been living and working in Hong Kong for more than 20 years.
It’s not just a matter of making the city more beautiful, as the project works at a deeper level, says Vikky. “We are injecting our community with vibrant colours and positive energy, to foster a strong sense of belonging among participants,” she said.
From schools to power plants
Many Hong Kong schools have been quick to sign up for the project, as they tend to have large plain walls and can directly benefit from having upbeat artworks spread across them.
But other buildings have proved to be good “canvases” for the artists too, including a CLP electricity substation, police stations and so on.
And the volunteers who do the painting come from a wide range of backgrounds. As well as children and ordinary working people, some famous names have been seen wielding a paintbrush, such as Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong.
Ultimately, mural painting works on multiple levels, the organisers say.
“We hope the murals will make our city much prettier, people much happier,” Vikky said. “We hope to bring peace and joy to this city we love so much, as well as promote Hong Kong as an enjoyable and beautiful place to visit from all over the world.”
Article first published in Fridayeveryday.com on 15 August 2023