Just opened: The Artground, a no-rules art centre for children aged 12 and younger

Ms Wang Tingting and her nine-month-old daughter Sophie Wiranata (above) explore Baby Space, an installation designed for babies aged 16 months and below.
Ms Wang Tingting and her nine-month-old daughter Sophie Wiranata (above) explore Baby Space, an installation designed for babies aged 16 months and below.PHOTO: GIN TAY FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Ms Wang Tingting and her nine-month-old daughter Sophie Wiranata explore Baby Space (above), an installation designed for babies aged 16 months and below.
Ms Wang Tingting and her nine-month-old daughter Sophie Wiranata explore Baby Space (above), an installation designed for babies aged 16 months and below.PHOTO: GIN TAY FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Baby Space, a multisensory installation, is one of the programmes at children's art centre The Artground

Seven-month-old baby Tiffany Fang gurgles in delight as she explores the soft, soothing environment around her.

Centimetres away, dancers clad in white create various shapes with their bodies amid the sounds of soothing music and ambient pastel- hued lighting.

This is Baby Space, a ticketed multisensory installation designed for babies aged 16 months and below, one of the programmes of newly opened children's art centre The Artground.

It officially opened its doors - taking up the space of a former school hall - at Goodman Arts Centre last Friday.

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It offers programmes such as music and movement-based interactive sessions, gardening workshops and multi-disciplinary installations, all designed for children aged 12 and under.

Member of Parliament Sun Xueling, who was guest of honour at the launch, draws attention to the multisensory exhibits in The Artground.

  • BOOK IT / THE ARTGROUND

  • WHERE: 01-40 Goodman Arts Centre, Block J, 90 Goodman Road

    WHEN: 9.30am to 5.30pm (Wednesdays and Thursdays); 9.30am to 6.30pm (Fridays to Sundays and public holidays); closed on Mondays and Tuesdays

    ADMISSION: Entry is free. All activities this month are free as part of an opening special except for Baby Space ($18 per baby and carer). For Baby Space, e-mail booking@theartground.com.sg with your name, contact details, baby's name and birth date. Pre-registration is required for all activities due to limited capacities

    INFO: theartground.com.sg

"The children can play, touch, assemble, build, draw, create. There are so many things to do. I hope parents will come back often to support the NAC and The Artground," says Ms Sun, who has two children, aged four and eight months.

The Artground is developed by new arts company The Ground Co Limited in collaboration with the National Arts Council (NAC). This pilot programme is meant to run for three years.

The company was chosen by a panel comprising arts practitioners, NAC and a children's panel of nine 10- to 12-year-old pupils from different primary schools.

"They usually get adults to be judges. I think it's great that they want to get children's advice of what we want this space to turn into," says 11-year-old Summer Loh, a pupil of Mayflower Primary School.

The Ground Co Limited is helmed by director Luanne Poh, 38, who was a producer with the Esplanade for 10 years and was involved in its children's programming such as Feed Your Imagination, meant for audiences aged seven to 17, and Playtime! for audiences aged two to four.

She is supported by consultant (programmes and partnership) Jane Choy, 35; centre manager Anisa Hamsani, 31; and programmes manager Michelle Tan, 36.

The roughly 500 sq m centre houses four main spaces: WhiteBox, a theatre and performance space; Baby Stage, a space meant for babies and their carers; Ground Floor, which will house art installations; and outdoor gardening space Good Garden.

For the rest of the month, The Artground will be debuting a range of mostly free programmes meant for different age groups.

These include gardening workshops by urban farming group Cultivate Central; and a mixed-media installation called Down The Rabbit Hole by Singapore-based artist Poh Yah See, an artistic take on the underground world of insects and animals that burrow.

The centre also has plans to roll out an incubation platform to encourage local artists to develop new programmes for young audiences.

For now, the only ticketed programme is Baby Space, which is conceptualised by Swedish artist Dalija Acin Thelander. Incorporating music, dance, poetry and visual art, it is ticketed at $18 per baby and carer.

Tiffany's mother Trina Fang, 35, is happy for a programme such as Baby Space.

"I'm constantly looking for things for her to do. There's a lot of things for toddlers and children who can run and walk, but when it comes to babies, we don't have that many programmes for them in Singapore," says the stay-at-home mum.

During the opening event last Friday, children were seen exploring the nooks and crannies of the centre, including poking their heads into the underside of a dungball sculpture which is part of artist Poh's installation.

The Artground's Ms Poh says: "I was really looking to create a space that was open-plan. No rules, no 'please stand behind the yellow line' - really a space where children can crawl through, run around and climb over."

She hopes the programmes in The Artground will spark curiosity in children because, without curiosity, "nothing will motivate you to learn".

She says: "If you're curious, then you will want to go do something about it.

"And that attitude towards playing and learning might cascade into other parts of your life."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2017, with the headline 'Play, baby, play'. Print Edition | Subscribe