Artwork by Kim Hyesu, Alumna, BA (Hons) Fine Art Practice
The former Principal of NAFA, Mr Wu Tsung Kan, passed away at the age of 102.
Mr Wu served as NAFA’s Principal from 1979 to 1988, and remained as its consultant until 1993. Under his watch, NAFA rose to prominence as a premier arts institution. According to NAFA’s 80th Anniversary book, ‘Art and Soul’, NAFA faced a dire financial crisis in the 1970s and was about to close. This issue was aired in Parliament in early 1979 when the MP for Thomson, Ang Nam Piau asked if the government would consider taking over the art school. Earlier, Lim Yew Kuan had stepped down as Principal of NAFA.
Soon after, a 12-member management committee was created, headed by Tang Liang Hong and supported by the Education Ministry to revamp the school and chart a new course. Thus, Mr Wu, who was then-retired principal of Chinese High School, was appointed as Principal. During his ten years as Principal of NAFA, he reorganised the academy’s structure, set up an administration department, a finance department, and established an advisory committee comprising artists, art gallery owners and museum directors. In the 1980s, he added a variety of new courses in graphic and computer design, dance, music and fashion design, diversifying the academy’s core offerings, which led to an increase in student intake. He also expanded the campus facilities, all of which enabled NAFA to make great progress.
Dr Lim Poh Teck, artist and senior lecturer at NAFA, shared that when he studied at NAFA in the 1980s, Principal Wu was amiable and down to earth. He also shared that he often saw Mr Wu and faculty members around in the school, and that Mr Wu preferred to focus on his work. He remembers an incident between Principal Wu and students, where students asked many questions that were beyond the scope of the school’s affairs, but Principal Wu had remained calm and firmly emphasised that NAFA was committed to providing a good environment for the arts, and people-centric management.
In addition to his many contributions to NAFA, Mr Wu established the Wu Tsung Kan Book Prize in 2016, a graduating award for all-round excellence. The prize is presented annually to two exceptional students from amongst the best diploma graduates at the academy.
Mr Wu’s son shared that even after Mr Wu retired from NAFA, he still cared deeply about NAFA and visited the academy often. He also shared that Mr Wu was a low key person and did not like publicity. A cremation was arranged after his death instead of a farewell ceremony.
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