In an interview with Lianhe Zaobao, Tan Wai Lan, the new President of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), revealed that she will implement the 10-year strategic plan set by previous President Chia Mia Chiang. She has also been close to art since she was a child and loves needlework and embroidery. Tan believes that art education can help cultivate a child’s personality and development, as well as bring spiritual fulfilment. Tan took over the reins at NAFA last December and has had one-hour individual chats with over 40 NAFA staff so far. She noted their fierce loyalty to NAFA and passion for the arts and arts education. Their enthusiasm for arts education has also attracted like-minded staff to join the NAFA family. When she visited the National Gallery of Singapore to visit the Georgette Chen: At Home In The World exhibition, she heard the docent speak proudly about Lim Hak Tai and NAFA, and felt humbled that she could become associated with the important academy that is NAFA. She plans to work hard to let more people know about NAFA. Tan visited NAFA’s three schools and believes that their facilities are advanced and also updated frequently. She also attended exhibitions and performances by the academy, including those in collaboration with the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival as well as Flagship Genius featuring Ayutthaya II.
Tan, who was the Coordinating Divisional Director of the Communications and Engagement Group at the Ministry of Education (MOE) stated that the vision of art institutions must be achieved as a collective and not by one individual. During the tenure of previous President Chia Mia Chiang, a 10-year strategic plan was drawn up till 2024. The further development of NAFA can be done through four pillars. First is to advance the degree programmes. Recently, NAFA jointly launched new degree courses with the University of the Arts London (UAL). This is the first time that UAL worked with an overseas institution to launch a programme of such scale, which piqued potential students’ interest. Second, is to further develop the Centre for Lifelong Education (CLE). Based on the popularity of art courses for adults, NAFA is exploring how to attract more students to sign up for the classes. This was also in response to the government’s call to encourage lifelong learning. Third, is to strengthen NAFA’s role in achieving the status of an education hub in Southeast Asia. Last year, NAFA saw more than 1,000 students enrol in its courses, with about 40% of those being foreign students from around the region. Fourth, is to explore how to empower students, staff and alumni to better develop their talents and attain more outstanding achievements.
Tan will also closely monitor the pandemic situation and ensure that learning, as well as the development of NAFA students are best placed. NAFA organised several focus groups for graduates to guide and assist them in employment and received positive feedback from participants. Speaking of the difficulty of finding full-time work in the arts, Tan believes that every industry faces challenges during this time, and encourages graduates to have a resilient attitude and be open to various opportunities in other fields as well. She stated that the enrolling in an arts school does not mean you can only become an artist after graduation. The academy also teaches entrepreneurship and key skills required in the work place so that students can venture into other fields. The most important thing is to pursue a fulfilling life. When she was young, Tan joined Chinese Dance classes and also the art club at First Toa Payoh Primary School. There, her instructor was Tan Oe Pang. She was also the Drum Major of CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School Brass Band, which helped to cultivate her leadership skills. Tan has loved needlework and embroidery since her secondary school days, and often assists her classmates in sewing classes. Today she designs and hand sews bags for daily use or as gifts to her friends, and even made a bag for her laptop. Tan also joked that she recently applied for the Introduction to Japanese Pastel Nagomi Art course at NAFA’s CLE but it was full.
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