Growing and Enabling an Arts for Good Community

29 participants from around the world gathered in Singapore for a four-day programme to explore how the arts can shape an inclusive society for persons with disabilities.

Participants from the ABW programme came from various countries such as India, Indonesia to as far as Cyprus share their expertise from diverse sectors to harness the power of the arts for social impact.

“Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community” said educator Anthony J. D’Angelo. With the intent to foster a community of practice that uses the arts as a means for doing good, the inaugural Artists for a Better World (ABW) programme brought together 29 international participants from 13 nationalities for the Singapore leg of the programme. ABW seeks to grow the Arts for Good ecosystem, to harness the power of the arts and culture to create positive social change. This inaugural edition explores how the arts can shape an inclusive society for persons with disabilities (PwDs).

Over the four-day visit, participants explored the capacity and skills needed to create an arts programme for social impact, as well as connect with an international ecosystem of artists, administrators, social welfare representatives and funders, who are keen on harnessing the arts for social change.

They participated in workshops facilitated by leading practitioners in the field such as Caroline Essame, art therapist and educator; Just Cause, an impact assessment consultancy and Justin Lee, Institute of Policy Studies Research fellow. The workshops provided a space for exchanges on best practices and the application of frameworks and methodologies to the ABW participants’ own Arts for Good projects and programmes.

(Top row) Experiential learning sessions at VSA enabled participants to explore visual arts as well as theatre modes for engaging persons with disabilities. (Bottom row) Maya Dance Theatre showcased and shared their work inspired by engagements with beneficiaries at the Singapore Association for Mental Health.

Two organisations - Very Special Arts and Maya Dance Theatre - presented their works highlighting the considerations and sensitivities of working with PwDs.

Kavitha Krishnan, Founder of Maya Dance Theatre, spoke about the organisation’s process in developing their upcoming production Anwesha. It was inspired by beneficiaries at the Singapore Association for Mental Health. She emphasised that it was important to “know the person first”. The second showcase by Very Special Theatrics, an inclusive performing company co-founded by Very Special Arts and ACT 3 Theatrics, demonstrated art programmes that gives persons with disability the platform to hone their talents. Both sessions highlighted the power of arts to give visibility to disability issues whilst empowering the PwD community.

“This was a great learning opportunity to understand the concepts of disability, the application of arts in the development and mainstreaming of persons with disability and exposure of various programmes and organisations.”

Reflections by Abhishek Kumar, ABW participant from India.

Cross-sector and inter-disciplinary exchanges were also brought forth through panel discussions and networking sessions. At these sessions, Singapore practitioners from the art, social work, education and corporate sectors were invited to engage with the ABW participants, bringing new perspectives and opportunities for Arts for Good. Panel discussions on “What is My Role as an Artist for Good” and “Singapore Insights: Cultural Intersections for Good” emphasised that collaborations across sectors bring together the best of many worlds.

As part of a night tour of Geylang led by social enterprise Geylang Adventures, ABW participants had a glimpse into the socio-economic, cultural and historical stories of Singapore, emphasising the importance of depth in supporting and collaborating with a community.

Participants also had the chance to experience the lesser known parts of Singapore through a night tour of the Geylang district led by social enterprise Geylang Adventures. The tour introduced participants to the diverse Geylang community and its ecosystem, from ground-up initiatives like Health Serve which was set up to provide medical services to migrant workers; to establishments like the Chinese Cultural Shop that strives to preserve the heritage of residents.

“Singapore is very diverse in people, religions, knowledge and skills. Singapore has also used diversity to strengthen the nation. I can see that you build new leaders not only in and for your nation, but also in and for other nations.”

Reflections by To Loeurt, ABW participant from Cambodia.

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