Heed the call of the arts

02 June 2020
The Straits Times

Photo Credit: Kemp Aw

A career in the creative industry may be a daunting prospect without guarantee of full-time work, especially given the current coronavirus pandemic. In recent years, though, local universities and arts institutions have revamped their fine arts curriculum and introduced new courses to better prepare graduates for real-life work. Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) revamped its diploma courses between 2016 and 2017, putting renewed emphasis on industry-based learning. Students complete a semester-long simulation of a commission-based project as well as an internship. The Straits Times spoke to four fine arts graduates (two from NAFA) to find out what life is like after a fine arts education.

Lis Tamara
On an open house visit to an art school in 2014, Lis Tamara Ahmad Razib found herself torn between becoming an air stewardess and pursuing her passion in art. Lis, 26, took up the air stewardess job thinking she would stick to it for five years and save up for art school. However, she quit after one year to take up a diploma in Fine Art (Painting), Traditional and Contemporary Oil and Chinese Ink Painting at the NAFA. "At first, I felt it would be wiser to have a financial safety net to support an unpredictable career path as an artist. But later, I realised any path could be unpredictable," she says. While pursuing her studies, Lis interned at local art consultancy and online gallery firm, The Artling, between August and November last year. "Although the internship was on the other end of the art spectrum for me - the business aspect which I was not directly exposed to prior to my course - I felt it to be a necessary paradigm shift. I benefited from learning how to source for art and artists," says Lis, who hopes to set up her own studio with another artist in the future. While she is aware a career in the arts may not be as lucrative as being an air stewardess, she is confident her commitment and passion will ensure a stable income.

Muhammad Nhawfal Juma'at
Mr Muhammad Nhawfal Juma'at, 28, who holds a Fine Art degree from NAFA, hopes to make a difference with his skills. And he is doing so as a part-time art instructor at Club Heal, a society with branches in Bukit Batok, Marsiling, Buangkok and Pasir Ris, which provides classes and counselling to people with mental illnesses to help them reintegrate into the community. Mr Nhawfal teaches painting, drawing and pottery at Club Heal. He is also an adjunct lecturer at both NAFA and Lasalle College of the Arts, teaching courses such as watercolour, oil and acrylic painting and also overseeing final-year projects for students at NAFA. He admits that he had previously feared he would find it hard to be an artist or a lecturer. "I had preconceived notions that getting a job as a lecturer or even being an artist would be difficult or nearly impossible. Eventually, I built up my experience as an artist on the ground, exhibiting and curating for art exhibitions while building a network I could rely on," says Mr Nhawfal, who creates mainly visual artwork using various mediums”.

View the full article here.