This past week saw the long-awaited Art Basel Hong Kong 2023. You see, timing is a funny thing…
While this was not the first Art Basel that Hong Kong has hosted since COVID began (there was a mostly digital 2022 edition), for many it felt like a long awaited revival for a city that only recently came out of lockdown mode.
Art Basel Hong Kong 2023 felt more like a homecoming than a traditional art week. For those who have been stationed in the city throughout the pandemic, Basel represented more than just another chapter in the annual art calendar. It was a proliferation of pent up social energy compounded by shared momentum for connection and community.
As guests from all pockets of the world meandered throughout the city going from fashion event to art opening, one collective in particular set out to bring together wellbeing, education, and art, all for a charitable cause.
Enter: Shelter Athletics.
Started by Jason Lam in 2022, Shelter Athletics is a self-titled “social sports club, dedicated to building community and culture, by being active and giving back.” Shelter was born out of Lam’s personal journey and running practice that he developed while locked down during COVID.
The club began with the simple goal of building relationships through running and other activities across sport and culture. All the while, the club aims to continually give back to its community through time and money. To date, Shelter has partnered with charitable organizations like More Than a Run, Movember, and More Good.
Despite his background in marketing, Lam did not originally set out with the intention of starting or building a brand.
Before Shelter was a ‘thing’ it was just one person’s personal journey towards finding wellbeing and balance.
“Running came to me when I needed it the most,” remembers Lam. “I was about to have my first child during the first wave of COVID. I knew I had to get healthy if I was going to survive either one.”
Lam grew up between Hong Kong and Canada before moving to Long Island, New York, where he spent many of his formative years. He moved back to Asia in 2008. With stints in Shanghai and Hong Kong, Lam and his family had settled in the latter when the pandemic hit in 2020.
What began as a personal foray into the world of hiking and running would become a catalyst for something much greater. As he would quickly find out, he was not the only one that was longing for connection and searching for community.
Shelter has evolved organically, but quickly.
“It started with hikes, then hikes turned into trail runs because I ran out of patience,” says Lam. “Then trail runs turned into road running out of convenience. I posted my hikes and runs on IG and people seemed to be into it and wanted to join me.”
The "Community Centre"
The Shelter Community Center was a three-day, weekend pop-up space situated within the Star Street district of Hong Kong.
Partnering with local lifestyle brand, Kapok, the market-meets-workshop space was brought to life through the work of Chicago-based artist, Cody Hudson.
Hudson’s lively, chromatic shapes filled the space with his hand-designed characters and colorful motifs that were emblazoned as wall art through the space. Working with Hong Kong-based design studio EDITECTURE, Hudson’s work was brought into the real world via up-cycled desk sculptures crafted from re-purposed, raw materials.
The shapely form factor of much of Hudson’s work for the collaboration gave nod to the Hong Kong skyline and geography as well as the body posturing of athletic and fitness activities.
For the Community Center, Lam worked with his wife and longtime collaborative partner, Denise Lai to creatively direct the interior, product collaborations, and roll-out Hudson’s work across all touch points.
The "Give Shop"
One anchor of the space was the cleverly titled, ‘Give Shop’ (a spin on a traditional gift shop) which featured product collaborations with friends and family of Shelter, while a portion of proceeds from all sales will be donated to the Edit Academy charity.
Branded phone cases from Casetify, special Sunnies Studios eyewear, XO Sauce with Flagrant Harbour, and KAZE masks were among the special edition items on display.
Kicking off its weekend of events, Shelter’s opening night launch party welcomed people from its community of runners as well as guests from all walks of life and industry across fashion, music, art, design, and sports. Hong Kong-based Jerry Ha served up sounds in partnership with Warner Music, while Dough Bros, Fun Kee Scoops, and Fernet Hunter donated bites and drinks for those in attendance.
Throughout its weekend-long residency, the Shelter Community Center would also play host to a multitude of workshops, educational excursions, and running sessions.
“I was about to have my first child during the first wave of Covid. I knew I had to get healthy if I was going to survive either one.”
For travelers whose interaction with Hong Kong paused in 2019 and resumed in 2023 during Art Basel week, the city may have felt like it never missed a beat.
For those who never left throughout the pandemic, the vibrancy and interconnectedness of the city had waned. Yet, Hong Kong is a city that has proven its resiliency time-and-time again.
Whether intentionally titled or not, Shelter – as the name implies – has proven that making friends, staying active, and giving back, might be the secret ingredients to weathering any storm.