The arts have the ability to unite people, heal and transform lives. With COVID-19 affecting global communities and international travel largely suspended, how can artists collaborate across borders to uplift lives?
From September 2020 to April 2021, the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) presented its answer with its Arts for Good (A4G) Projects. The SIF challenged artists to rise to the occasion with its inaugural open call for A4G projects in May 2020. It extended institutional and financial support to arts-based projects that deliver sustainable social impact.
Out of over 140 applications, five projects representing artists from nine countries were selected, with their projects impacting over 31,000 people globally. All the selected projects were represented by at least one SIF Arts for Good Fellowship alumnus – a testament to the growing A4G ecosystem. This is a community of artists and practitioners who collaborate to harness the power of the arts and culture to create positive social change.
The five projects were:
- In A New Light (Singapore, Scotland, and Bangladesh)
- World Wisdom Map (India)
- SAME-SAME (Singapore and Australia)
- ArtSEA (Singapore and the United States of America)
- Legends of the SEA (Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and The Philippines)
In A New Light
How does the climate crisis affect children and how are they responding? This question was explored by three Fellows from the SIF’s A4G Fellowship 2018:
- Renee Chua (Singapore), Theatre Practitioner;
- Salma Moushum (Bangladesh), Research and Planning Coordinator, Gidree Bawlee Foundation of the Arts; and
Fiona Ferguson (Scotland), Creative Development Director, Imaginate.
They reflected on the question with 60 children from underprivileged backgrounds in their respective countries over several weeks. The artists captured the children’s responses in the titular performance film, which was screened at the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival on 26 May 2021.
In A New Light empowered the children to express themselves through the arts and to connect with peers from other countries.
“We are all committed to making opportunities for children to meet each other internationally. Seeing the reaction of the children in Singapore and Scotland, when the children in Bangladesh were joined by goats and cows that happened to be passing by during the zoom; or the children in Scotland being described as looking like living ‘in a world of Harry Potter’. When you see the joy that this brings to children, you know this must happen more.” – Fiona Ferguson (Scotland), Project Lead, In A New Light and Creative Development Director, Imaginate.
Find out more about In A New Light here.
World Wisdom Map
World Wisdom Map collects the life lessons of individuals from all 195 countries in the world and pinpoints each person’s location in one comprehensive online map.
The project – led by A4G 2018 Fellow Deepak Ramola (India) and his team from Project FUEL – promotes multi-cultural learning and exchanges among global communities.
The project also inspired a series of works – including original artwork by Southeast Asian artists and students from India and Singapore, insightful data narratives, and a free educational module – designed to amplify the impact of each story and promote multi-cultural learning and exchanges among global communities.
“The World Wisdom Map is a testament to the fact that everybody, if given the opportunity, has something of value to offer to the world from his or her experience. From collaborating with the Singapore International Foundation team and the public community, we learnt how an incredibly participative, equitable and respectful environment can be co-created.” – Deepak Ramola (India), Project Lead, World Wisdom Map and Founder and Artistic Director, Project FUEL.
Find out more about the inspiration behind World Wisdom Map here.
How do people with disabilities make sense of the global pandemic? Are they the same or different across the world?
SAME-SAME, a cross-border dance-theatre production about friendship, featured seven differently abled performers from Singapore and Australia exploring these questions. Over three months, the performers developed the piece and rehearsed online, with reflections of their experiences during COVID-19 forming the narrative for the performance. Through the process, they also forged friendships with each other.
The performance piece is a collaboration between Theatre Today (Singapore), Diverse Abilities Dance Collective (Singapore) and No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability (Australia). It was led by A4G 2018 Fellow Jeffrey Tan (Singapore) together with collaborators Subastian Tan (Singapore), Emma Beech (Australia) and Michaela Cantwell (Australia).
More than 400 people from 11 countries tuned in to SAME-SAME’s four live shows, streamed via Zoom from 13-14 November 2020, including Mr Kwok Fook Seng, Singapore’s High Commissioner to Australia.
He said: “In these times, when we can’t travel, events like this help us to feel connected. I want to thank the performers for touching our lives and encourage all of them to persevere. I also want to thank the organisers for having brought people from both our countries together in such a special way.”
“I love working with people from different cultures and backgrounds, and being able to laugh, joke and talk about things that matter to us. Amidst the pandemic, this reminds us that we have so much in common” – Emma Beech (Australia), Independent Theatre Director.
Catch the highlights of SAME-SAME here.
ArtSEA is a community that aims to revolutionise arts education in the Southeast Asia. They have several outreach channels to do this, including a Facebook community and teacher training workshops for underserved communities in the region. They also have a free digital resource pack featuring 55 art activities for children, designed by 11 Southeast Asian artists.
The community was founded by three Fellows from the A4G Fellowship 2019:
- Teng Ziying (Singapore), Applied Theatre Practitioner and Lead, YouthReach, Boys Town;
- Rebekah Lin (Singapore), Co-Founder, The Social Co; and
- Kristin Dwek (United States of America), Visual Artist.
“The programme is unique and timely for artists, art educators and cultural workers. I had a great time attending the masterclasses of ArtSEA and the team is really motivating. The tool kit for participants is well designed in terms of integrating the value of Southeast Asian artists and inclusion. I thank the team for their support as the mechanisms that they developed in ArtSEA have been instrumental in shaping the creative perspectives of my fellow trainees.”— Anna Karina Jardin (The Philippines), ArtDialogo Asia, one of the participating communities of ArtSEA and SIF ASEAN Youth Fellow.
At a safely-distanced, in-person event held for the launch of the digital resource pack on 13 March 2021 at The Projector, Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State in the Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth and Ministry for Trade and Industry said: “Art transcends borders and platforms. It is integral to us. It makes us whole. Rebekah "Beks" Lin, Ziying Teng and Kristin Dwek are three friends who jointly created ArtSEA, a digital resource pack that introduces children to diverse artists and artworks across Southeast Asian cultures. ArtSEA is supported by our friends from the Singapore International Foundation. Thank you, Team ArtSEA, for using art to connect people, across communities and borders.”.
SIF Governor Ms Ng Shin Ein said in her opening remarks: “It has been very heartening to witness the resilience of the human spirit shining through our Arts for Good Projects. Amidst the current challenges, there is a can-do spirit as the arts community innovates and looks for ways to uplift each other. We will continue to support them and I am confident that our artists’ tenacity will make our arts and culture scene stronger for the future.”
"We believe in providing more variety in the artworks we offer our children and voices that connect with our communities. We are so grateful to Singapore International Foundation which made this dream a reality." – Kristin Dwek, United States of America, co-founder, ArtSEA.
Join the ArtSEA community here and download their free digital resource pack.
Legends of the SEA
Legends of the SEA is a free children’s art activity e-book for underserved communities in Southeast Asia. It contains 15 art activities, inspired by Southeast Asian artforms and stories, and is written by a team of artists and educators across the region. The e-book aims to create access to quality art education.
The activities can be carried out with easily accessible everyday materials, enabling children to develop their creativity and build character while exploring the rich cultural heritage of Southeast Asia.
“We know that creativity flourishes in times of need and scarcity. Inspired by both historical and contemporary legends, we draw upon local stories of courage and resilience to nurture an environment of support, safety, and social inclusion.” – Lee Hui Ling, Project Lead, Legends of the SEA.
The e-book was put together by five A4G 2019 Fellows:
- Evelyn Ghozalli (Indonesia), Co-Founder, TaCita; Creative Director, Litara Foundation;
- Lee Hui Ling (Malaysia), Educator and Co-founder, Cai Hong Designs;
- Soonufat Supramaniam (Malaysia), Founder, Leadspire Academy;
- Pia G. Ortiz Luis (The Philippines), Executive Director, Cartwheel Foundation Inc; and
- Loh Wan Ting (Singapore), Founder, Red Balloon Therapy.
The e-book has been shared with over 10,000 community schools and organisations in Southeast Asia. You can download the e-book here and find out more about the activities inside.
To find out more about A4G projects, get in touch with us at [email protected] or sign up for our mailing list.