It's a place slightly outside of the heart of the city, just 15 minutes away in the nooks of Singapore's Mountbatten district on a traffic-free day. Serene and surrounded by lush greenery, a centre of some sort comes into sight.
The centre provides exhibition space for artists and the general public to rent.
The infrastructure looks like a school, and that is what was from 1962, before it was converted into something even better. Now it's a sanctuary for the most imaginative aspirations to flourish and it is called the Goodman Arts Centre.
The Goodman Arts Centre first opened its doors last year to welcome artistic callings of every sort. A public space for rent to the art community, it includes state-of-the-art facilities such as a Black Box theatre, multi-purpose hall, gallery, rehearsal spaces, ceramic studios, dance and music studios, meeting rooms and seminar rooms.
An amphitheatre, garden and open field are also part of the centre's grounds. On top of that, the GAC houses the National Arts Council as well as two chic restaurants, Cafe Melba and La Barca Ristorante & Wine Bar, thus making it the perfect setting to seek peace and productivity as well as hanging out with other art enthusiasts amidst good food.
What were once classrooms have been turned into studios and working spaces for any individual or group who wishes to rent them. What you get is an empty, white room and what you add to it is completely up to you, although you are required to return the room the way it was on moving out. The length of a stay can range from weeks to years and there is now a long waiting list.
It's hard to pass up such a great working environment _ especially when the government subsidises the rent by about 80%. Other than the small fee, tenants must also engage the community in order to renew their stay at the GAC. One way is to hold workshops.
And the thing that's so grand about this place is it truly houses tenants of every artistic and creative direction. Many non-commercial people who lack working space for their creativity to flourish or open space for their whole troupe to practise in can find solace here. Imagine that, and how all your neighbours are inspired people who understand the difficulties of your craft and what you are going through. It may get difficult if you're trying to write a world-changing novel when a percussion band is practising a few rooms down, but what is there to do? Art has no boundaries.
Walking around the GAC is like being engulfed in a beehive of creativity and every different compartment is a complete world of its own. We were fortunate enough to visit some tenants and witness what they are up to.
One of the groups we visited belonged to the Association of Comic Artists. The well-furnished room looked just like the home of a comic freak, but it isn't, it's just a really comfortable space for art to grow. Other than the sofas, drawing stands filled the room, a pool of Macs was also in one corner for conducting classes to comedy students.
Another room we visited was called La Libreria, a workshop to create book art. Soft-spoken Eriko's room was completely different, filled with stacks of paper in pastel hues and fir furniture that gave a warm, light feeling _ like stepping into a Muji store. Another group, Kaleido, was a hip studio containing lots of colourful posters with sleek and modish typography, with young and trendy tenants designing cool brochures. Currently there are 48 tenants in total.
While the GAC is not exactly supposed to be for boarding, many artists in the place sometimes end up spending the night there; after all, creative trains occasionally arrive at odd hours. What's good is there are no regulations about that (really, Singapore?) and it's not the end of the world if you do sleep over. The place supports artists and whatever needs and callings they may have.
With ready conveniences and resources, such centres could enhance artistic capabilities and further artistic accomplishments. Art's a part of life that is so integral, yet is easy to forget. It serves to enrich our soul and without it, our lives can be dull, with no zeal.
It is crucial that places like this are established to provide assistance for artists with potential and students with low budgets but grand designs that could be an advantage for society. Something for Thailand to ponder, perhaps?
View of the amphitheatre with different artists behind every colourful door.
About the author
- Writer: Parisa Pichitmarn
Position: Life Writer