Bringing the arts to campus

8 Apr 2019

By Yuki Ling

A cupcake frosting workshop was offered for free at this year’s Nanyang Arts Festival and was a hit amongst students. PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

The typical cost of a cupcake frosting workshop is about $230 per person, but students were able to participate for free at a workshop held during the Nanyang Arts Festival (NAF) this year.

The workshop was one of six conducted by external vendors — a marked change from the NAF held in previous years, when all workshops were conducted by NTU member clubs, such as NTU MJ Hip Hop Dance Club and NTU Lindy Hop.

The external vendors that participated in the two-month-long festival included Blossom De Cake, a home-based bakery that sells cakes and teaches Korean buttercream piping, HoppingHope, a hand-lettering company, and Artefakts, a local craft workshop.

The number of workshops available this year more than doubled to 26, after organisers received an oversubscription for the 11 workshops on offer last year.

“The maximum number of participants for each workshop this year is kept between 10 to 25 to make the workshops manageable for instructors and conducive for participants,” said the NAF Main Committee Workshop Organiser, Lee Jia Ying.

In response to the increase in the number and variety of workshops, there were more than 300 students signing up for workshops within the first one and a half weeks of registration this year.

“Clearly the demand is more than the supply. I feel sad that we have to reject some people who want to participate in the workshops,” said Samuel Chan, 23, the Chairperson of the NAF this year.

For final-year student Loo Yee Feng, attending the cupcake frosting workshop this year was the first time he had participated in the NAF — an event that debuted in 2003.

“How often do you see a cupcake frosting workshop in school?” said Loo, a School of Social Sciences student.

“Normally when students join workshops, they just listen instead of do hands-on activity. This workshop lets us experience it and bring home our own final product,” the 24-year-old added.

Learning from experts

Collaboration with external vendors was also part of the NAF’s plans to expand and publicise the festival outside of NTU, said Lee, a first-year student from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

“It’s expensive to learn outside of school, so we bring the workshops to NTU for students to try it for free,” said Lee, 20.

“As the workshops are one-off, they are low commitment too,” she added.

Ms Pauline Koh, a self-employed home baker, conducted the workshop on cupcake frosting which focused on creating Korean buttercream flower designs for cupcakes.

Ms Koh, 56, felt that the workshop was meaningful as there was a pay-as-you-wish element where participants could donate any amount they wanted at the end of the workshop. All proceeds would go to the Singapore Cancer Society.

She also saw it as an opportunity to spread the art form to students.

“The students were all very eager to learn. I’m especially impressed by the three guys who did so well, as usually girls are more proficient in this,” said Ms Koh.

Another external collaboration was the sign language workshop, headed by an instructor from the deaf community.

Chua Zhong Zhe, a second-year School of Materials Science and Engineering student, felt that the sign language workshop was very informative, especially since the instructor was from the deaf community herself.

“We were in an environment where we were forced to use sign language to communicate so it made the class more focused,” said Chua, 24.

A spotlight on lesser-known art electives

The National Institute of Education (NIE) Visual and Performing Arts Academic Group (VPA) also collaborated with the NAF for the first time this year, offering workshops such as painting with acrylic, silkscreen painting, batik and sculpting. These are typically semester-long modules at NIE.

A spokesperson from the NIE VPA said that they were determined to showcase the variety of NIE courses and workshops that are available for students on campus.

“Engagement in the arts develops skills in the affective domain, which in turn is assistive to collaborative skills like learning to work in a team and subsequently building valuable relationships,” added the spokesperson.

Yet, some students are still not convinced about taking up these semester-long art modules.

Chua, who took part in the sign language workshop, said: “I would rather take modules that are more relevant to my working experience.”

While students like Chua had little interest in taking these art modules as examinable subjects, third-year NIE student Lee Zi Xuan, who attended the painting with acrylic workshop, still believes that the NAF has helped raise awareness on these courses.

“The professor who conducted the workshop actually teaches the painting with acrylic module at NIE. He showed examples of students’ work and let us experience what the elective would be like,” said Lee, 22.

Chan, a second-year School of Social Sciences student, believes that the workshops held during the NAF lower the barriers to entry for students who wish to try out the arts but are afraid of committing their time or compromising their grades.

“If we present the opportunity to students, we will definitely find people who would want to try out the arts, but couldn’t find the opportunity to.”