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Cultivating a love for the arts
WHAT child doesn't love finger-painting or singing at the top of her lungs to the catchiest tunes of the time? But how many of these children go on to have their artistic talents nurtured and developed into something less infantile?
"Not many", is Peggy Leong's short answer. The deputy director of the Arts & Youth division of the National Arts Council (NAC) said: "While they're still in school, people have ready access to the arts through co-curricular activities and arts education programmes. Unfortunately, once they've graduated, it's much more challenging to become involved in this field."
Bridging that gap, then, is the business of Noise Singapore, a multi-disciplinary arts festival which offers amateurs aged 18 to 35 various platforms to showcase their creativity. Now in its 10th year, the initiative started by the NAC has attracted participation from more than 6,000 young people.
Ms Leong, 42, said: "Even though that's a staggering number, I believe a better measure of how successful Noise has been is if we see how the esteem of arts has grown over the last 10 years. It's much easier to convince people of the merits that a career in the arts can have, and the overall quality in the commissions we're seeing now has also increased tremendously."
She attributes the initiative's success to its focus on staying on-trend. "We deal with the youth arts landscape, and that's always changing. What excited someone a decade ago isn't likely to have the same effect today. The Noise team is always connected and we make sure we're relevant, so we evolve according to the changing tastes and needs of the youth," she said.
The fact that today's youth have taken to using technology to express themselves, for example, led to the creation of a "Moving Images" category within the Arts Mentorship Programme last year.
This year, Noise will kick off with the Festival Exhibition, an open-category display of hundreds of artworks, simple crafts and merchandise along with music performances on weekends. Along with regularly scheduled annual events such as The Apprenticeship Programme Exhibition and The Music Mentorship Concerts, Noise Singapore has also invited its alumni to put together an exhibition of works investigating the relationship between artists and their environment. Well known alumni musicians such as Inch Chua and Shigga Shay will headline their own concerts.
Wilfred Lim, 27, an alumnus of Noise's The Apprenticeship Programme (TAP) in 2013 said: "The programme really helped me because of all the exposure I gained from it. It's great because it accepts really raw talent as compared with other calls for exhibition, which look for more established artists." He now has his own photography business, and undertakes commercial work while pursuing fine-arts photography.
Full-time artist Daniel Yu, an alumni of TAP 2012, agreed: "My degree was in business, and art had always been a hobby for me. Noise helped me tremendously because I'm from a non-arts background and it introduced me to the arts community." The 30-year-old added: "It's a great platform for people who want to get into the arts because of the exposure it provides. I also think that it's great how it garners more awareness of the local scene, because then people realise it isn't just international artists who are thriving, but that there's a lot of local talent as well."
Having studied print-making at LaSalle and working with the NAC for about five years now, Ms Leong has always had an interest in art. She said: "Art is an intrinsic part of who we are today, and apart from the obvious skills, it also builds up admirable traits in young people, such as confidence. At Noise, we just want to encourage an appreciation of the arts, in all its forms."
Paddy Jonathan Ong, frontman of local indie quintet Take Two, has also benefited from Noise 2014's The Music Mentorship Class. He recalled: "We met a lot of industry trailblazers and that really helped, because we were learning from people who'd been there and done that."
While he credited Noise as "the perfect platform" for aspiring artists, the 27-year-old called for the industry to be more "organic": "There shouldn't be a need for so much hand-holding. I think the natural entertainment ecosystem needs to take a leaf from the NAC's book and get more actively involved in helping the industry grow."
Ms Leong agreed: "While we're still running Noise, we're looking for intermediaries to come up and take it on. I think the ideal state would be for people to run it without government involvement, but for now, we've come a long way."
Noise Singapore 2015's line up of free-to-attend exhibitions and concerts run until Nov 8 at various locations. For more information, please visit www.noisesingapore.com