When art and the community interact

28 Mar 2024

DSC05455r DSC05455r
Ms Janet Fong, Research Assistant Professor of the Academy of Visual Art, is named the recipient of the 2023/24 General Education Teaching Award (Early Career) in recognition of her outstanding performance in teaching.


How to inspire students to drive positive change in their community through visual arts? How to encourage students from different disciplines to work together on an art project? How to incorporate immersive technologies in visual arts education?

These are the questions Ms Janet Fong, Research Assistant Professor of the Academy of Visual Arts under the School of Creative Arts, seeks to address through her General Education capstone course “Art and the Community”. In this experiential learning course, Ms Fong guides students to learn about the role of art in promoting changes within the community, collaborate with partnering organisations, and engage the public through artistic and design practices.

Speaking of her teaching philosophy, Ms Fong says it is important to nurture a student-centric learning environment and encourage students to engage in self-directed learning. To this end, her lessons have incorporated multiple learning modalities, ranging from field trips, sharing sessions by guest speakers from arts organisations to hands-on experiences.

“My teaching approach emphasises the principles of discovery, action, and reflection. Students get the chance to explore different community art practices and identify issues faced by the community. They then develop art projects to engage the members of the public in a variety of creative ways, bringing awareness to social issues and enhancing people’s appreciation of art. Students also evaluate their projects to find areas for improvement, and this contributes to their learning process,” says Ms Fong.

Since its reception in 2021, the course has involved about 100 students, reaching nearly 10,000 people around the world through the student-led community art projects. Besides showcasing their creative work in the virtual world, students have also curated physical exhibitions and conducted community art workshops in event spaces provided by the University’s collaborative partners, including the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the arts organisation HART. This provides students with networking opportunities with art groups and valuable experiences in organising exhibitions and workshops, thus fostering sustainability in the art community.

To further enrich students' learning experience, Ms Fong has introduced the use of digital technologies to her class. “In collaboration with the Hong Kong Palace Museum, I arranged a tour for the students to visit a thematic exhibition on Chinese garden design. Students then develop their community art projects using augmented reality (AR) technologies, such as creating unique AR filters for social media to engage the online community. For their final group assignment, they will invite museum visitors and online audiences to explore topics related to Chinese garden art in a newly-created metaverse,” says Ms Fong.

While the fusion of art and technology may be relatively new to the public, Ms Fong believes that technology is an important new tool in artistic practices. She says: “Technology has already been incorporated into our everyday life, so why don’t we explore how to apply it in art?” She remains optimistic about the opportunities new technologies can open for art, and that artists using digital tools can innovate and create novel work.

Ms Fong’s openness to using new technologies has brought her ahead of the curve in developing innovative teaching approaches. She has recently won the 2023/24 General Education Teaching Award (Early Career), which recognises faculty members’ outstanding performance in teaching General Education courses.