$1m for fund to promote inclusive arts events

(From left in picture) Artist Mary Bernadette Lee guided Serangoon Secondary School student Susanna Bombay and retired teacher Daisy Leong in creating "Our Personalities Outshine", an artwork representing what home means to them, currently on display
(From left in picture) Artist Mary Bernadette Lee guided Serangoon Secondary School student Susanna Bombay and retired teacher Daisy Leong in creating "Our Personalities Outshine", an artwork representing what home means to them, currently on display at the WeCare Arts Exhibition at Our Tampines Hub.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

When asked to work with a teen to express through art what home means to them, retired teacher Daisy Leong, 73, was surprised she shared similar ideas with her partner.

The Jia Ying Community Services Society volunteer was paired with Serangoon Secondary school student Susanna Bombay, 14.

They decided to create a mixed-media sculpture which used beds, figurines and other items to depict their bedrooms which they both described as safe spaces to pursue their interests and hobbies, such as colouring and playing music.

The pair were part of a project in which an artist taught senior citizens and students over seven lessons how to use art to represent what home means to them.Their work is currently on display at the WeCare Arts Exhibition at Our Tampines Hub. The project is one of 348 sponsored under the WeCare Arts Fund in the last three years.

Over the next two years, $1 million will be set aside for the fund, following a memorandum of understanding signed yesterday by the Mayors' Committee chairman Low Yen Ling, on behalf of the Community Development Councils, and National Arts Council (NAC) chief executive Rosa Daniel.

The fund was set up in 2014 to make arts programmes more inclusive among less advantaged communities, such as people with disabilities, youth at risk or isolated elderly people helped by social service organisations (SSOs). In 2014, $1.5 million was set aside over three years to applications from the more than 400 SSOs recognised by the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the National Council of Social Service. Up to $5,000 per project was available.

Each SSOcould apply for up to $10,000 each year, and the money could be used to cover artist fees, materials and other project costs.

Guest of honour and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu opened the exhibition, which features artwork created by senior citizens from five SSOs.

Ms Chua Ai Liang, senior director of engagement and participation at the NAC, said participants benefited from the programmes through self-discovery. "Staff from SSOs tell us that during these sessions, 'my beneficiary is a different person, I've never seen him smile like that'," she said.

The fund has been tapped by 171 SSOs, 91 artists and some 8,300 beneficiaries since 2014. They include visual arts programmes, dance workshops and drumming sessions.

Mrs Leong said that she had reservations at first about working with someone so young.

"I was thinking, 'Oh dear, she would be grumbling about an old lady like me', but it turned out we had very similar ideas," she said.

Artist Mary Bernadette Lee, 32, who guided the pair in making their artwork, said: "As an artist, it was warm and heartening to see how art brought them together."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2017, with the headline '$1m for fund to promote inclusive arts events'. Print Edition | Subscribe