Arts events are targeting children to start them young and turn them into the next generation of arts lovers. Every January, the Singapore Art Week, an annual celebration of visual arts, draws about 100,000 visitors to its art fairs, exhibitions and indie events championing art forms such as street art and printmaking.
To grow the number of those arts lovers into the future generation, four programmes this year – the art week’s fifth edition – are targeted not at well-heeled arts aficionados or the hipster crowd, but at those who are more familiar with crayons, colouring books and doodling covertly on bedroom walls.
Two offer visual art experiences or activities for children as part of programmes surrounding a larger exhibition or art fair. The other two events are Tanjong Goodman, an open house at the Goodman Arts Centre taking place tomorrow and on Sunday, as well as tomorrow’s The Art Of Stories organised by Playeum Children’s Centre for Creativity, which has installations and activities centred on the theme of stories.
In planning the activities for children, these organisations employ different strategies and pedagogies in order to engage them in meaningful ways. At Singapore Contemporary, parents can trawl the art fair halls while their children aged three to 11 create paintings, drawings and other art projects under the supervision of teachers at Kids Art Studio. There will also be 45-minute art tours for children aged five to 11.
At the Singapore Biennale, contemporary art is presented to appeal to adults and children. Programmes and materials are developed “with younger audiences in mind”. The museum’s assistant curator, Ms Andrea Fam, 29, says there will be artist folios to “guide younger visitors through each artwork concept”.
At Playeum Children’s Centre for Creativity in Gillman Barracks, children are consulted when it comes to designing the activities. The centre’s executive director Anna Salaman, 45, says: “Much of the inspiration and qualification for our ideas come from some of our most trusted advisers – the children themselves.”
Museums run by the National Heritage Board (NHB), such as the National Museum of Singapore and Singapore Philatelic Museum, organise family-friendly activities regularly. There is also the annual Children’s Season in May and June with dedicated programming catered specially for the young ones. The National Arts Council observes that art activities for young children tend to be multi-disciplinary, incorporating visual arts, hands-on craft and performing arts.
It will be launching a Children’s Art Centre, which will offer multi-disciplinary art activities for families and schools, at Goodman Arts Centre.
The National Gallery Singapore, which has a dedicated 1,000 sq m children’s wing called the Keppel Centre for Art Education, also has plans to inaugurate an art biennale for children in May. While organisers and art educators say that exposure to art activities can lead to long-term art appreciation in children, they urge parents to play an active role too.
Mr Kennie Ting, 39, NHB’s group director of museums, encourages parents to do research before a trip to the museum. For instance, they can download resources from the museums’ websites. Visual artist Wong Seet Fun, 42, who runs nine-year-old art education company Art Loft, urges parents to look out for open-ended activities that allow children to make decisions, such as what they want to draw and the materials to use. “Never get children to colour in pre-drawn drawings, which trains only hand-eye coordination and not creativity,” adds Wong, who is a mother of three.
“In a society where there’s so much pressure from work and school, to know and like an art form is really important. You can then express your emotions through the arts. We teach the young ones about this avenue instead of sending them to therapy later in their lives.”