I love young creatives and offering them challenges just one step beyond their current ability. Watching them push beyond their boundaries and ultimately elevate their own capabilities is the most satisfying reward a mentor can hope for.
You never know what a single comment might do for a student. A few of these comments from my professors transformed my career. Today, I have suddenly realized how much rich professional expertise I have accumulated and have discovered a burning urge to share my knowledge and experience with young people. I really want to transform students’ lives, much like my own professors transformed mine.
While teaching, I emphasize the same skills that I have used to build my art practice. Art is a process of observation, analysis, and communication. To be relevant, art must be grounded upon the audience’s societal and cultural context. Thus, the artist must learn how to be a citizen of the city, the nation, and the world. To be interesting, art must somehow help the audience see the world differently, illuminating what was previously hidden. Thus, the artist must learn how to build connections across different subjects, disciplines, and life goals. To be impactful, the artist must learn how to communicate his or her vision. Thus, the artist must learn the tools of the trade and develop their own practice. With these goals in mind, I guide my students to leverage interests across disciplines to push their own practice forward; I also share professional tools to prepare them for life after graduation. Ultimately, I hope to help them to become better versions of themselves.
I have applied these principles across a wide variety of teaching settings, ranging from university courses and invited lectures to programs at primary and secondary schools.
My first tertiary teaching experience was at HKU Space a decade ago, where I taught Discover Your Creative Medium and Style. I designed it as an introductory course where students could try different types of visual media such as ceramics, printmaking, photography and life drawing in each of thirteen classes. The goal of the course was to provide just enough of a taste for students to decide which ones they would like to pursue.
This course laid the foundation for my private teaching practice. During the course Dr. Wang Xiang Iris, a student in the course and a PolyU faculty member, asked me about children’s art education. That short conversation turned into a decade of private teaching for her daughter Amy and other children and adults.
"I wish I had had the same art teacher and classes when I were her age!
Firstly, Michelle is an active young artist. She is always working hard on her own projects and engaging in various local and international art events. I think it is a great privilege for her students to be able to closely observe how an artist works. [...]
Secondly, Michelle takes art education seriously, and she has many original ideas about teaching art to kids. I particularly appreciate how Michelle tries hard to cultivate the children’s understanding and interest in art, and how she smartly introduces different genres of art to the kids[...]"
Dr. Wang Xiang Iris
faculty member, Polytechnic University
For instance, I introduced classic film noir and asked my students to identify the conceptual breakthroughs in a PowerPoint presentation and later, a written essay. Other topics have ranged across contemporary artist research, the commodification of art objects, the ecology of NFTs, the male gaze, ready-made art, and Osamu Tezuka vs. Walt Disney. Students revise their homework until the work meets a high standard.
In turn, my teaching practice has led to secondary school teaching. I have taught many project-based workshops at local and overseas schools, such as the French International School (2017 and 2019) and the Harbour School (2017 and 2019.) I usually begin with the intended learning outcomes and plan backward to ensure I deliver the technical and intellectual education to support the outcome. In 2020-2021, I developed and taught a curriculum for students taking the IGCSE and A-Level Art exams. Based on these experiences, I was invited to serve on the Internal Validation Panel for Initial Evaluation and Learning Programme Accreditation Exercise of Pui Kiu College and NCUK in 2022.
I also have extensive experience designing, teaching and facilitating workshops for secondary students. From 2019 to 2021, in collaboration with the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation (HKYAF), I designed and taught a workshop titled “Artificial Intelligence Animals” with two local secondary schools (Sheung Shui Government Secondary School and Helen Liang Memorial Secondary School), in which I introduced biodiversity and mass extinction and guided students to design and create their own larger-than-life freestanding sculptural animal paintings on wood. This entire body of work was exhibited at Youth Square, Chai Wan, with my painted landscape backdrop highlighting these AI animals’ habitats and characteristics. As part of the exhibition’s education programme, I designed and delivered two online instructional videos for elementary and secondary teachers to lead their own AI Animal workshops with HKYAF’s production support. HKYAF received many positive feedbacks on the videos and documentation of the students’ own AI animals following the video instructions.
As my art practice has developed, I have been invited as a guest lecturer at universities and film festivals worldwide. My screening and lecture at the 5th International Motion Film Festival (2019) has resulted in numerous invitations from the host and fellow presenters, including being the sole invited guest artist at the Quarantine Film Festival and Varna Municipal City Gallery, Bulgaria (2022), Representation of the Natural World online panel discussion on illustration, to be published in Colouring In (online journal), the University of Plymouth, U.K. (2021), International Artist Residency (working title) in Pervolia, Cyprus (2022) as the first and only Asian representative in all of the above instances, and many standing offers to lecture at universities whenever I can make it to their locations.
"Plastic, plastic, every where! by Michelle Fung is an excellent and intriguing piece of visual art depicting a world where plastic pollution has become so extreme that children have to eat plastic in order to help solve the problem. I personally found Fung’s use of animals to portray humans to be an excellent choice because that’s exactly what we are – animals[...]
There is so much more content in this 23-minute film that is worth discussing, but I would certainly need a few more pages to do so. It is full of layers of meaning and allows for interpretation while still delivering a clear message. If we as a human collective continue to be so careless, eventually it will reach a point where there’s “plastic, plastic, every where, [and] not a soul is left.”.
student from The University of Victoria. 2018.
Below, I provide a detailed explanation of specific instances in which I used each of my three principles.
I require my students to reflect carefully upon their social, cultural, and economic realities to build a foundation for artistic practice. I have found that this compels students to recognize that their artistic practice—an expression of their being—is embedded within a web of relationships. Ultimately, students gain a better understanding of themselves and my hope is that this will help them become better global citizens with kindness, empathy, intelligence and conscientiousness.
For example, I recently finished an exhibition at PMQ for my private students, curated by my assistant and current AVA student Leung Cheuk Kei, titled “What I Want to Remember in Ten Years”. I guided my private students to examine the essence of their lives at their age (8-14) and translate that into painting. Their works not only reflected the students’ personal journeys but also Hong Kong’s current times. For example, a diptych of an unforgettable night out and a plane carrying the young artist’s best friends away from Hong Kong serves as both a bittersweet personal memory and a reflection of the social context. Each student wrote a private letter to themselves and to their parents to be opened in ten years. Each step was carefully curated to facilitate better understanding of themselves, of their relationships with their family members, and their world at large.
I believe creativity is all about making unusual connections, especially those across disciplines. Thus, I incorporate interdisciplinary components into my curriculum, bringing visual arts, film, and literature together with entrepreneurship, environmental studies, public speaking, and other essential life skills.
An illustrative example is a recent in-class exercise in my private teaching practice where we studied the colour palette of 50 classic films. Students applied colour theory to describe each film’s colour palette. We proceeded to watch the trailers to establish the film’s genre and synopsis. The meat of the exercise was a lively debate on the analysis of the film’s colour meanings. As homework, each student picked one of the fifty films to write an extensive colour analysis.
I strongly believe in combining life skills seemingly unrelated to art such as journaling, visualisation, goal-setting, and public speaking in my own practice to effective results. These skills help me clarify my thoughts and translate them into actions. By asking students to do these exercises, they learn how to present their research and thinking succinctly to their viewers, collectors and/or future collaborators. I assign weekly blogging and/or posts on social media platforms as a communication tool to present their works’ research. Students also learn to cultivate their essential professional online presence.
Art schools are fertile grounds for transitioning students into productive members of the diverse creative industry: art marketing, curatorships, auction houses, museums, and both commercial and experimental galleries.
Besides technical calibre and academic rigour, students need to understand the art ecology and secure resources and opportunities to carve out their creative career paths. I have achieved this by conducting guest lectures, in-class exercises, field trips and practicums. In my previous course at HKU Space, I invited graphic designer Henry Steiner, Hong Kong Open Printshop, and other illustrious speakers to broaden and enlighten the students’ learning experiences. I have taken students on regular field trips to local exhibition spaces and art festivals as experiential learning opportunities. I am also excited to share my own personal journey to locate resources/opportunities and to master the art of grant writing. Indeed, my own grant from the Pure Art Foundation came from AVA professor Brian Chung’s lecture six years prior to my application. I look forward to assigning grant writing assignments to advanced students and sharing my own tips and tricks.
I make a point to work with talented students for my own professional projects and cannot stress the value of industry experiences enough. An internship is a direct fast track to navigate the art ecology, build a network, discover one’s passions or worst nightmares. I watched my own personal assistant (a current HKBU student) and my animation team (current students of HKBU, Open University and a recent HKBU alumna) transform into more mature and confident beings in a matter of months.
Nurturing World Citizenship through Practice-led Research
Nurturing Insightfulness through Creative Thinking
Nurturing Impact through the Tools of the Trade
"I have been working with Michelle Fung for almost half a year now on her film ‘Polluta’, and I find that it is only right to say that working with Michelle has been a wonderful and nurturing experience as she is a strong leader who has a clear vision yet does not obstruct the voices of the team members as well as consider them carefully. […]
Moreover, she is a very understanding leader full of compassion, always looking out for the conditions of her members, never neglecting them and even sacrificing some of herself like her time to adhere to our (the team’s) needs. She is also very humble and polite to us even though some of us are still students, for example with me, she does not treat me like a student, but as a fellow artist and even, collaborator. With this treatment to the other members of the team as well, the Polluta team is very strong and united, and our meetings are always dynamic and warm, because we are all a part of the film, and Michelle cherishes us and takes us even as a family for the film.
As the composer, editor and sound designer of ‘Polluta’, I need to be able to use my creative mind to interpret and complement her film musically and with this, I need to be particularly close with Michelle personally as a friend as well as professionally as a director to crew. Sincerely, the process of bonding with Michelle is very easy; she is very friendly, easy to talk to, and approachable. This creates a really good creative chemistry between us […]
Overall, what I would sincerely like to say is that Michelle has been a really great leader, artist and friend. I can speak on behalf of the Polluta team and myself, that it is wonderful working with Michelle, and I do really hope to collaborate more with her and have a life-long friendship."
Lauryn Vania Kurniawan
As the composer, editor and sound designer of Polluta film project
"Working as a director in an animation team, Michelle has provided clear guidance and amazing leadership.
Besides, Michelle is always willing to communicate and care for our opinions. Being the creator of the concept, and also the director and the artist of the film Polluta, she never just makes us work and follow orders, but also asks for opinions on animation and music from the team. […] Also, the way she gives instructions gives us enough room to work with our creativity. She always instructs us on what kind of mood and feeling the shot should give out, instead of how things should exactly be, so both the animation team and the composer can work relatively freely and contribute to the film with creativity. Michelle respects the team’s opinion and all team members are feeling glad to be able to get invited as part of the team.
[…] While making such a serious film with important messages, Michelle is willing to give a try on playful characters and also interesting and funny plot, showing surprise and impressing not just the audience outside, but also members of the team. We are having a lot of fun when working on and experimenting with different elements for the film, and learning a lot from Michelle.
Last but not least, Michelle does not just care about the project, but she also cares about the team. She is always communicating with us, and is always trying to know how we are feeling when we are working as a part of the team. She also shows good care to us when we have difficulties. For example, all team members have different time schedules, having some months very busy, and Michelle will allow us to work less in those months so that we can have a less difficult time. We are grateful to have Michelle always caring about us, and we have a very strong sense of belonging towards the project and the team.
To conclude, Michelle is capable in guiding and leading, has strong skills in conveying messages and communicating, and is always caring."
Wing Ki Ho
Lead animator. Polluta Film project.