Bringing the World Closer to Young Artists

Art moulds a person's temperament. Art is important to children since it helps in their intellectual and emotional growth. Loo Kee Pow speaks with Kwok Kian Chow, Director of Singapore Art Museum (SAM) and Celina Kwan, an Assistant Professor at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) National Institute of Education (ITE) to find out their views on how to promote children's art in Singapore.

Kwok Kian Chow: The artistic world of children

In today's technologically advanced world, most of the knowledge we receive comes from a variety of media. The visual arts has become more important now than in any other period of time as a form of communication.

Sharing his views on the role of art in modern society, Kian Chow says, "In the past, we associated art with the upper class. This is no longer true. Art belongs to everybody. In fact, everyone can be an artist. We don't just obtain knowledge from drawings, we also enhance our spiritual well-being."

Kian Chow explains the importance of children's art, "Drawing from our personal experiences, all of us interpret a piece of art in different ways.The way a child looks at the world is different from an adult. A child understands the world from his own perspective, which leads to unexpected creativity in art."

In the late 70s, Kian Chow was a People's Association (PA) Art Activity Instructor at a few community centres. He recalls, "Besides teaching the children, I also learnt a lot from them. It was a good opportunity for me to communicate with them and share their artistic world. As adults, we must look at the children's drawings from their point of view and help them express themselves. As these children are young, skills are not crucial. What's important is to bring out their creativity."

Kian Chow says that the SAM is keen to work closely with the PA to promote children's art, "We encourage the PA Art Activity Instructors to bring their students to the Museum. They can draw inspirations from the works of famous artists. The Activity Instructors can also incorporate the exhibits into their teaching materials."

The SAM will give discounts to the entrance fees when these art classes visit the Museum, says Kian Chow. They will also prepare special teaching materials for the Activity Instructors. In addition, the PA and SAM will continue to co-organise art workshops for the Activity Instructors. At the recent workshop conducted by Celina Kwan, the Activity Instructors learnt new ways to help children think imaginatively within the classroom setting.

A former Deputy Director of the PA, Kian Chow has kept an eye on the progress of art activities at the community centres and clubs. He says, "Every year, there are about 17,000 participants who attend 15 types of art courses at the community centres and clubs. This figure is encouraging. The PA has produced a conducive environment for children to learn art."

Kian Chow believes that the cooperation of the PA and SAM will help to promote appreciation and general knowledge of art. By highlighting the importance of visual arts, Kian Chow hopes that Singaporeans will learn to express themselves freely through drawings. These efforts will help to bring the development of art into the new millennium.

Celina Kwan: Keeping in touch with nature

Art does not exist in vacuum. It is a way for us to express our feelings towards an object, event or the environment, says Celina Kwan, an Assistant Professor of the NTU (NIE). She encourages art students to step out of their classrooms and reach out to nature. Art teachers can bring their students to places such as Singapore Zoological Gardens and neighbourhood parks.

"Art teachers play an important role in inspiring the children's creativity in art. They should encourage their students to be creative and express themselves through drawing, " says Celina. She also hopes that art teachers will pay more attention to the interest and talents of their students. She cites a pre-school educational course in Italy, "The children there learn to communicate with others through drawing, singing and acting. This course has run successfully. Our art teachers in Singapore can also teach in this way."

Celina has a deep impression of the efforts put up by the PA to promote children's art. She says, "Many children learn drawing at the community centres and clubs. The PA can play an even more active role in developing the artistic talents among children." Celina believes that, with the close cooperation of the PA and SAM, Singaporeans will pay more attention to the arts and the future of Singapore art scene is a vibrant one.

article originally published in Citizen