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An Education in Art

by Rachel Jena 1 Oct 2011
An Education in Art

A quick gander at the different art institutes, colleges and opportunities in Malaysia and Singapore will help you see how art can serve as education.

Art may be an innate talent, but it doesn’t hurt to get a bit of help in this area with an education in art or design. Hone skills at art institutions, sow creative seeds at the right schools, or look beyond primary and tertiary art education into opportunities for professionals and plain enthusiasts.

Here are some of the best of Malaysia and Singapore for an education in art.

Start Young

Early art education in school can lay a strong foundation for the rest of a child’s future, creative or not. The folks at The International School of Penang (Uplands) know this well.

“Beyond the visual arts curriculum itself we have extra-curricular activities, such as painting and Art-Attack. In this club, children make all kinds of things, from papier-mâché, ceramics, model making and of course, all sorts of paintings and drawing in different media.

“IB students often stay back after school or come to school on weekends to do extra work, as do IGCSE students, especially those in the final year of these courses. We feel that visual art is for everyone, not just the gifted minority.

Everyone can learn to create art and everyone can learn to understand and appreciate art. It’s mainly a question of having an open mind about these things,” say the school.

The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) is also recommended for its art education. Specialist international teachers are on hand to steer kids along the creative path and at their Elementary school, art and music is offered twice in a six-day schedule. Lessons here aren’t just focused on crafting objects either.

Students are also taught about art as a form of communication, art’s connections to history and culture, and how people make judgments about art—topics that undoubtedly cultivate a lifelong interest and appreciation in this area.

ISKL’s after-school art activities only drive this point home. And more importantly, it’s these avenues that offer students a chance to brush up on their skills and prepare themselves for what comes next.

Opening Doors

Art college or university is where all the training for the ‘real world’ happens. Whilst the argument about inborn creative talent does ring true, a formal art education has its merits and none more so than how it opens doors.

Raffles College of Higher Education Kuala Lumpur (formerly known as Raffles Design Institute) has this practically written in their constitution. They’ve been around since 1994 and their most popular courses are their Fashion Design and Fashion Marketing degrees, which prep students for an industry that’s widely known as one that boasts a who-you-know convention for individuals to get ahead.

Students here get a little nudge in this direction with those all-important networking opportunities. “Our students do get a chance to meet people from our local industries. Before graduating, students must complete an internship with a company from their industry. Some of our fashion internship partners include LVMH, Club 21 and the Melium Group.

Industry experts are also invited as guest judges to mark and evaluate the graduating students’ work at their exhibition and fashion show,” explains Katherine Kee from Raffles, who keep all their classes at 20 students and below.

You’ll also get this type of industry support from Dasein Academy of Art. They offer a range of courses, but it’s their Fine Art department—led by department head, artist Kim Ng—that has been churning out some of Malaysia’s best emerging visual artists.

But if you’re after a design-based career, then consider the courses at The One Academy of Communication Design. With campuses in Bandar Sunway and Penang, their degree courses in Graphic Design & Illustration are coveted, as is their Multimedia Design course.

The college has strong links to universities abroad and many of their ex-students have gone on to land top design jobs internationally. Fresh graduates are even known to carve instant careers with industry bigwigs like advertising giants Leo Burnett, Dentsu, Bates and Crocker & Mano.

At IACT College, their industry network is a selling point. The college has close ties to the advertising and communication industry, their staff include industry professionals, and IACT students gain pivotal hands-on-training during internships. Plus, the college’s diploma courses in Graphic Design and Creative Multimedia can be extended at degree level at any of the college’s affiliated universities in Australia, UK, USA or New Zealand.

On the Island

KDU Penang has art-related courses, which put students on the path of “careers with bright prospects”.

The type of jobs the college teases prospective students with is enticing (Creative Director, Desktop Publishing Specialist, Architectural Draftsman, Set Designer), and whilst only two diploma subjects are offered here (Interior Design and Creative Media Design), both subjects cover a wide range of subjects that form the groundwork for their students’ next steps.

These subjects include basic design to history of art, and professional practice and management to the all-important, real life practical training. And once students are done with these, post-diploma study routes include going straight to work or continuing studies abroad at one of the universities in the college’s network, which is spread across Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.

Of course there’s also the option of transferring credits to Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) School of Arts. Also located on Penang island, here students mostly benefit from the university’s facilities, the wide range of auxiliary courses they have on offer, and the large student community to toss ideas around with.

Research buffs also have the choice of embarking on two-year, full-time post-graduate studies. A PhD in Fine Arts, anyone?

Across the Causeway

Or travel a little further for your education. A leader in art education in Singapore, LaSalle College of the Arts is one art school to reckon with. Since their humble beginnings in 1984, they’ve grown tremendously and aside from boasting enviable student-teacher ratios (12 to 1 in the Fine Art courses, for example), it’s their wide range of courses on offer that’s an attraction.

Choose from a degree in Arts Management to Fashion Textiles or even Product Design. They even offer Masters in areas of specialisation like Art Therapy, Asian Art Histories, Arts & Cultural Management, and Fine Arts.

The other big player on the island to look out for is Raffles Design Institute. All courses are design-based and again, there’s great variety. Jewellery Design, Transportation Design, Animation and Games Design are just some of the courses on offer and all undergraduate and postgraduate degrees are awarded by Raffles College of Design and Commerce, Sydney.

Adults and Beyond

If you’re not looking for formal qualifications, but a shot at developing skills, you can choose to learn with some of the professionals in town. Get back to the basics in analog photography with Paul Gadd, who helms The Print Room.

Gadd, a photographer with plenty of commercial experience in Malaysia and beyond, is leading courses in the fundamentals of film photography, as well as advanced film photography classes for those with more experience.

Want to (quite literally) brush up your skills in painting? We suggest doing so under Shia Yih Yiing’s guidance.

A Malaysian artist who is known for her beautiful figurative works, Shia runs classes for children and adults and she emphasises individuality and expression. If you prefer to work with your hands, try the pottery classes at Clay Expression.

They offer Adult and Junior pottery classes, and each comprises 8 classes per course. If you don’t want to commit for that length of time, then their two-hour trial session is for you.

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