Thoughts on the Singapore Arts Scene
How do you think the arts help with child development?
There are a myriad of ways a child can use and engage with the arts. Coupled with age-appropriate facilitation, activities and materials, the non-directive nature of the arts allows a child to explore across and along a spectrum of possibilities, and mastery need not be the end goal (although it can be).
This means a naturally curious child can spend hours working out different ways to test out different outcomes.
From fine motor skills in drawing and painting, to gross motor development in dance and creative movement, from understanding rules and turn taking for the younger ones, to working out strategies for the older ones in theatre games, from literacy/expression to the ownership/development of self esteem in sharing about one's artwork or presentation of a performance, and the perseverance and time it takes to engage (and master) in any art form; partaking in arts activities can develop a child holistically, be in cognitive, motor skills and even values-based learning to be a more socially engaged and progressive person.
For more detailed examples about how the arts can benefit a child, please check out this great article from the Asian Parent.
How you think Singapore is doing in growing our Arts Scene?
Top down, the National Arts Council (NAC) is a very responsive council to the local arts sector, and seeks to always understand what is happening on the ground to tailor resources and funding to the sector's needs.
In the recent years, the local Arts for Young Audiences sector has really taken off due to the funding support and initiatives from NAC. From the big players like Esplanade to companies like Singapore Repertory Theatre, Players' Theatre and The Theatre Practice, to the newer players like ourselves at The Artground, there are year-long programmes for young audiences (from birth) to participate and engage with. Many of us benefit from funding from the NAC to subsidize our expenses to make the arts affordable to the general public and communities.
Ground up, we also have an active pool of artmakers and creatives who are always looking for innovative ways to design experiences for our young audiences in non purpose-built spaces. Some of these ground-up activities are initiated by parents themselves. This means that families with young children can also enjoy lots of fringe activities that are off the beaten track!
Here are some examples of that
How do you make art relatable to Singaporean kids?
We believe that this is the easiest part - just provide them with the opportunity to try it out for themselves!
The arts do not have prescribed criteria or have any notion of entry-level access. Any child can explore with a crayon, and move their body to music.
The child can and will relate to the experience as long as it is appropriately facilitated and supported.
Hence, what is important is the relevance of what you are introducing in terms of age-appropriateness and sensibility of materials/stimuli to the assumed ability of the child. For instance, while a child using a wheel-chair can still enjoy movement and music, the facilitation must be appropriate to allow the child explore within the realm of her/his assumed abilities. The experience only 'fails' or rather 'fails to relate to the child' when there is a perceived notion of 'successful outcome'.
What do you hope to see in our local arts scene in the next 10 years?
I hope to see the continual growth in diversity of programming for our young audiences. For a while, we were only seeing one 'type' of art activities for our children. For example, in theatre, children's shows were always in proscenium theatres where the actors perform on a stage while the child audience sit in their designed seats.
Currently, there is much more diversity in the 'set up' of theatrical experiences, which includes a more immersive experience between performers and audiences. The provision of arts enrichment classes are also evolving in their structure and curriculum and there are many more programmes that incorporate play, pedagogy and the arts to allow more children to regularly engage in the arts outside of arts venues.
At The Artground, we believe in the tangible and intangible benefits of the arts in a child's development and that artmaking and its experiences are important as they are, whatever the outcome.
Like how we do not question the importance of nutrition and education for a child, we hope that in 10 years time, the sector will no longer have to justify why the arts are important for a child's well being. And we hope that more people, from top down and ground up, will share our vision, 'To let art do, what art does'.