This July, a small group of Fine Arts students, Class of 2009, participated as helpers for the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial. The Echigo-Tsumari AT (hereafter ETAT) is the largest international site-specific art project in the world. The students’ trip was made possible by the generous donation from The University of Hong Kong Museum Society and the Faculty of Arts.

Unlike other art biennales or triennials, the ETAT ambitions are driven by social and civic needs. As increasing number of the younger generation move from the countryside to cities, areas such as Echigo in the Niigata Prefecture have been badly affected by a depleting population. The demographic shift has led to abandoned homes, derelict schools, and neglected buildings that once served a thriving community. ETAT was devised to revitalize this area by introducing arts into the area and working alongside the local communities. The project require of its participating artists and volunteers an extraordinary degree of sensitivity to the existing conditions of the land in which their work will be shown, and to the sensibilities of the owners of the land.

Our students began their working trip with a visit to Naoshima, an island in the Seto Seas, which also comprise numerous site-specific and community based art works. Naoshima is working to develop similar regeneration programmes. Later, the group moved from the seas to the hills spending three weeks in the Niigata region.

Art on Islands, Art in the Hills, compiled by Fung Nok Kan Nicole, includes students’ writings about their journey. We have made it available online. Please click here to access the file.