The Artistic Director and CEO of Chinese Arts Now, one of Arts Council England’s new National Portfolio Organisations, explains how she reached her position.
Artistic Director, Chinese Arts Now (2018 - Present)
I’ve never believed in the existence of boundaries and always enjoy creating collisions between genres and different disciplines. This comes from my own ‘non-arts’ background – I did chemistry for my undergraduate degree at the National Taiwan University, with a minor in drama and theatre. I understand the importance of engaging people without arts experience, and I want to share contemporary, innovative, cross-boundary Chinese arts with a British audience through Chinese Arts Now – as well as bringing more Chinese people to the wider arts world, where there will be more works which have resonance with them.
PhD / Concert Theatre (2011-2017)
These years were a simultaneous mix of doing a PhD, being a freelance pianist and director, and running my company ‘Concert Theatre’.
My PhD at the Royal Academy of Music was research in practice, on the subject of ‘creating a new style of performing arts’. I worked with theatre makers and concert musicians to invent a hybrid artform, Concert Theatre, which combines classical music with theatre. It was good to have a safe environment at the Royal Academy of Music to experiment, but I’ve always found it important to test work in the sector – so I founded Concert Theatre as a company and a registered charity in 2012.
I did three productions for Concert Theatre, carrying out fundraising, finding venue and production partners, and marketing, among other tasks. It laid important foundations and I learned the tools of running an arts organisation through hands-on experience and by working with other people. I got to work with many wonderful artists and producers who I will carry on collaborating with for Chinese Arts Now – these include theatre director Jude Christian and producer Ruth Holdsworth.
Freelance (2010 - present)
After my undergraduate degree, during my PhD and while running Concert Theatre, I also took on other freelance work, including about 20 piano recitals a year and work as pianist and/or music director for other theatre productions. I also received funding from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for an advanced diploma in piano performance, and started creating concerts with different media by working with multimedia designers and writers.
One production that I was music director and pianist for was Wattle and Daub’s puppet opera, The Depraved Appetite of Tarrare the Freak. The process of developing an opera – interweaving puppet performance and singers – was intriguing, and I started to find that my interdisciplinary practice as a classical musician and theatre maker could contribute something different to the performance world.
My ability to work on a variety of things at the same time, including performing, project management and company logistics, is the result of the different kinds of work I’ve been doing intensively over the past five years.
I even finished writing my PhD thesis during the lunch breaks in the productions I was working on!
An-Ting Chang is Artistic Director of Chinese Arts Now.