A Full and Juicy Big Apple


I had heard plenty of news about the snowstorms in New York before stepping onto the plane and I was worried that the weather would affect my whole trip. But within a day, I had already forgotten about the cold and was completely absorbed...

Heidi Lee is an experienced arts manager who has held key positions at a number of Hong Kong's leading performing arts organisations. Since graduating from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA) in 1996 with a B.F.A. in Stage Management, she has served as Assistant General Manager of PIP Cultural Industries Ltd, Company & Programme Manager of Hong Kong Dance Company, and Assistant Programme Manager of HK Repertory Theatre amongst other roles. Currently she is the Executive Director of the Cheung Kong School of Art and Design (cum Art Education Center) at Shantou University in China. For her professional development, Heidi pursued an M.A. in Cultural Management in 2007.

Heidi was awarded an ACC Hong Kong Arts Circle Fellowship in 2012 to expand her knowledge on arts management through the observation and research of management systems utilized by different performing arts organizations in the United States.


Written by Heidi Lee

I had heard plenty of news about the snowstorms in New York before stepping onto the plane and I was worried that the weather would affect my whole trip. But within a day, I had already forgotten about the cold and was completely absorbed by the ‘happenings’ in New York.

Every morning, I would have breakfast near the apartment that the Asian Cultural Council has arranged for me, which is well-equipped and situated near the United Nations. I will do exercise and then arrange my schedule, lining up where to go, who to meet, what to see, or which exhibition or museum to attend in the following days of the week. It has been busy every day, and my experience has been very substantial. Apart from it being substantial in terms of the use of time, it has been made all the more rich for the inspiration and satisfaction that this trip has given to my mind and soul.

Having been in New York for a month, I’ve visited performing arts groups, arts centres, performance venues, arts festivals, and museums that each bear their own distinctive features and artistic directions. For example, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Park Avenue Armory, Public Theater, and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, each has their own particular venue identity because of the different types of events that they present. As with Broadway productions, the audience groups are all different from other places, so there is very little overlap as a whole.

Heidi Lee (middle) with students of the Columbia University Theater Management Department

Through the introduction of different individuals, I have been able to interview the Director of Administration of Carnegie Hall, the Director of Contemporary Program of Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, the Executive Director of Mark Morris Dance Group, the Senior Producer of Park Avenue Armory, the General Manager of Guggenheim Museum, the Chairman of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and the responsible persons of the Theater Management Department of Columbia University and Yale University, etc. They are all very clear about the mission and vision of their organisations, their artistic positioning, and the ecology of the performing arts industry.

Perhaps it was because I enjoyed superior status as an ACC grantee, each person would take special care to share with me their management experiences. From information about funding sources, distribution of income and expenditure, company structure, program development, outreach & education, tour planning, fundraising, to the use of venues, and human resource management, they all shared with me in detail as we laughed and chatted. They also were open about the difficulties that they have encountered, and at the same time I would share with them information about the art scene in Hong Kong and mainland China.

A big ‘thank you’ to ACC for providing with personalised advice for my program and for giving perfectly timed suggestions for shows and events to attend. I am filled with gratitude to find fruit in a situation where I am fumbling my way through this journey but given tremendous support as I do so. I am very grateful to each individual who has donated towards my fellowship and to the ACC. It is only with your support that I have been able to experience this and learn all that I have here, tailor-made, without worry or concern.

As a local arts administrator who was born and raised here in Hong Kong, I’ve fallen for this full and juicy Big Apple, but I love Hong Kong all the more. I have always said this to the people around me here in New York that our art and culture is equally as unique.

I hope that my peers would be able to enjoy the sweetness of this Big Apple, and I hope to find ways to apply all that I have learned on this trip to the city of my birth.

25 February 2014
Greenwich Village