Research & Impact
Art for education: Professor Sophia Law receives the Knowledge Transfer Excellence Award
Prof Sophia Law of the Department of Visual Studies has received the Knowledge Transfer Excellence Award in 2018, in recognition of her contribution to society through the knowledge transfer project “Touching the Earth – Environmental Art Workshop at Lai Chi Wo”.
“The belief that art appeals to the senses as well as to the mind drives my research, which has focused on exploring art as a form of experiential learning and as a language written in images,” said Prof Law. Her mode of exploration in this project was to organise four workshops in 2015-2016 in Lai Chi Wo, a 400 year-old walled Hakka village near Sha Tau Kok in the New Territories, for 130 students of all ages and stages, from primary school to college.
For this project she partnered with the Kadoorie Institute. Founded by the Kadoorie family, the institute runs a farm and botanical park on the slopes of Tai Mo Shan and engages in outreach. Prof Law partnered with the institute because she wanted to enhance participants’ awareness of the natural and cultural resources of a rural village such as Lai Chi Wo, transmit the value of environmental conservation in rural redevelopment, and encourage reflection on and discovery of alternative nature-human relationships. What better place to achieve these aims than Lai Chi Wo, and what better way than creative, nature-oriented art activities.
The first activity was a Blind Drawing exercise, designed to engage participants' senses in imagining and recreating natural items with their eyes covered. A related exercise was the Blind Tour, where participants were led blindfolded on a walk around the village. Participants also made art installations to explore innovative ways of building with local resources. Drawings were done with locally-made charcoal; the materials for the installations were collected on site. Through such hands-on activities, students sharpened their senses and got a deeper understanding of the characteristics of the local climate, flora and fauna; they became more aware of the subtle operation of the ecosystem while investigating the habitats of wild creatures.
By all accounts, the project has been transformative for the students who took part. In a group sharing session, most participants said they considered the activities new, striking, and exciting. In a pre-workshop questionnaire given to each participant, it was found that knowledge about Lai Chi Wo and conservation was limited, as over 80% of students had not heard of the place, while only a few could relate rural development to relations between humanity and nature. By contrast, feedback in the post-workshop questionnaire indicated that the majority of students agreed that the workshop had raised their awareness of Lai Chi Wo’s historical, cultural and natural resources, enhanced their appreciation of the value of conservation, and heightened their connection with nature. Many were thrilled by the chance to tell their stories and feelings by making art.
More about Prof Law’s project can be found in the project’s website (http://touchinglcw.wixsite.com/laichiwo), which documents project details, findings and the students’ artworks; or by watching RTHK’s Artspiration programme (http://www.rthk.hk/tv/dtt31/programme/adcweekly_artspiration/episode/337546), which features footage of the workshops.