Activities to nurture next generation of arts lovers

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.

They are the second edition of the art fair Singapore Contemporary, which started yesterday and runs till Sunday; and programmes organised by the Singapore Art Museum from today to Sunday, in conjunction with the ongoing contemporary art exhibition, Singapore Biennale.

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 – which is organised by the Singapore Art Museum and runs till Feb 26 – 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” and “echo corners” inviting responses to the Biennale’s themes through guided questions and activities.

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.”

For its current exhibition, A World Full Of Stories, the centre conducted focus groups and exhibition previews with children over 16 weeks “to see what worked best and what needed to be tweaked”.

While Singapore Art Week provides an excellent platform for children to engage in art, there are also art activities for kids in Singapore the rest of the year.

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 speciallyfor 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. Details will be announced at a later date.

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 Nicholas Yeo, 30, placemaking manager at Goodman Arts Centre, says: “Long-term art appreciation is the fruit of harvest from various groups of people such as arts intermediaries, with the primary responsibility on parents and caregivers.”

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. “Let your children explore, let them take the lead while providing them guidance when asked,” he says.

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.”

Singapore Art Week(end) At SAM

A child in front of Qiu Zhijie’s One Has To Wander Through All The Outer Worlds To Reach The Innermost Shrine At The End, an artwork at the Singapore Biennale. PHOTOS: SINGAPORE ART MUSEUM, TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

What: Guided tours, artist performances, music performances and a street picnic are some of the activities happening this weekend at the Singapore Art Museum.

When: Today and tomorrow, 10am to 9pm; Sunday, 10am to 7pm

Where: Singapore Art Museum, 71 Bras Basah Road, and SAM at 8Q, 8 Queen Street

Admission: Free


Tip for parents: "Actively talk to children about artworks and ask them for their opinions. Parents can also extend the art experience after a museum visit by asking them to respond to what they just saw through simple arts and craft activities at home." - Ms Andrea Fam, assistant curator, Singapore Art Museum

The Art Of Stories

Children can enjoy hands-on activities at Playeum’s A World Full Of Stories exhibition. PHOTO: RICHARD KEARNS

What: There will be storytelling sessions; a trail for participants to look for different shapes around Gillman Barracks and then make a story with them; and hands-on activities at current exhibition, A World Full Of Stories.

Where: Playeum Children’s Centre for Creativity, 01-23 Gillman Barracks, 47 Malan Road

When: Tomorrow, 2 to 6pm

Admission: Free


Tip for parents: “Give your children the time and space to create at home. If possible, allow this play to be messy. Give your child old clothes to wear, put a mat on the floor andprovide materials such as clay or paint.” – Ms Anna Salaman, executive director of Playeum

Tanjong Goodman: Imaginary Compound And Weekend Market

Tanjong Goodman: Imaginary Compound And Weekend Market. PHOTO: GOODMAN ARTS CENTRE

What: Meet artists based in Goodman Arts Centre and participate in activities such as dance sessions, visual art demonstrations and open studio visits. There will also be a weekendmarket selling arts and craft items.

When: Tomorrow and Sunday, 10am to 6pm

Where: Goodman Arts Centre, 90 Goodman Road

Admission: Free


Tip for parents: “There are two ways for parents to help inculcate a long-lasting love for the arts in their children: constant experience and participation together in all art forms without judgment, and allow the children to imagine and play.”  – Mr Nicholas Yeo, the centre’s placemaking manager

Singapore Contemporary


What: The art fair has dedicated programming for the young, in the form of an art studio and art tours.

When: Today, noon to 9pm; tomorrow, 11am to 7pm; and Sunday, 11am to 6pm. Kids Arts Tours take place today at 4 and 5pm and on Saturday and Sunday, hourly from noon to 4pm

Where: Halls 401, 402, and 403, Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre

Admission: $25 for a one-day pass; $48 for a three-day pass (go to or call 6348-5555). Kids’ programmes available on a first-come, first- served basis.


Tip for parents: “We noticed many parents following their kids around on the tours. That shows immediately the role of parents: engage, have a conversation about art with their children, demonstrate their interest in looking at art, talking about art, creating things and possibly buying art.”– Mr Douwe Cramer, the show’s director

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2017, with the headline 'Arty fun for kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe