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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Art & Design at Singapore

Bend it like an artist


Singapore, also known as the commercial hub of the Asian region, is keen to promote itself as a cultural capital as well. "To promote the creative industries, it is important to nurture talent by imparting education in that particular field. Hence, Singapore government has established a number of creative schools," said John G Conceicao, director, education services division, Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

The government is keen to attract overseas students to explore art and design options in Singapore. "Singapore has already established its reputation worldwide in management education. However, we also want overseas students to come and explore design, art and new media options, as there are an estimated 66,000 new jobs in these fields," said Vivian Balakrishnan, minister for community development, youth and sports, Singapore.

Besides the number of institutes and polytechnics offering art and design courses, Singapore also promises several employment opportunities within Singapore in the near future. "Over the years, the government has taken many initiatives to create employment opportunities for those coming to study here. Singapore Fashion Week and Singapore Fashion Festival are the two major events that have tapped talent," informed Brian W Forst, lecturer, fashion design, Raffles Design Institute.


According to Singapore's ministry of information, communications and the arts (MICA), from 1995 to 2005, the creative industries cluster grew at an average annual rate of over 8%, more than the average growth rate of 5% for the general economy. MICA claims that over 1,00,000 people were employed in the creative establishments in Singapore in 2005 and that the number is expected to grow at about 2% over the next few years.

To provide an additional boost to the creative industry developing talent and capabilities, the government has also dedicated over SG $200 million over a period of five years and adopted a three-pronged creative industries development strategy comprising Media 21, DesignSingapore and Renaissance City 2.0.Media 21 comprises development of content for television, film, animation,interactive and design media. DesignSingapore is promoting design disciplines like graphic arts, jewellery and interior design, fashion architecture. Renaissance City 2.0 encompasses the elements of fine arts as well as literary and performing arts, photography, galleries, museums, and so on.


For those interested in joining fine arts and performing arts courses, Singapore has many public and private institutes offering courses, some of the better known ones are Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), LASALLE College of the Arts, New York University Tisch School of Arts, Raffles Design Institute, National University of Singapore (NUS). Polytechnics like Nanyang, NGEE ANN, Republic, Temasek and Singapore Polytechnic also offer several options.

NAFA, , is among the premier institutes and is internationally recognised. It offers 14 full-time diplomas and 17 Masters and Bachelors degree programmes. NAFA has eight departments offering courses in 3D design, arts and management, design and media, fashion studies, fine arts, music and theatre. The diploma programme is of three years’ duration, although a student can also upgrade to a joint degree, from NAFA and one of the five international universities that it has collaborated with in US, UK and China, by staying on for an additional year. While elaborating on what NAFA has to offer to international students, Ng Siu Wai, director (marketing and admissions), NAFA, said, "Since we have students from across Asia, we provide students a chance to learn from other cultures as well. For example, when I recruit students from India, in tests they use designs and patterns specific to India, but once they come here and work with other students, they try Chinese colours, Japanese patterns etc." Corroborating Wai's statement, Nagarajan Ghanapriya, a second-year student pursuing a fashion designing diploma from NAFA, said: "Studying here has been a good experience for me because Singapore has access to all the Asian markets. If I wasn't studying here I would never have known the Indonesian and Vietnamese market for designing."

LASALLE College of Arts , , is another institute offering 51 BA and MA level programmes, MA in art therapy, BA in film, musical theatre, fashion design, animation and arts management being the most popular. The college has established its reputation in the field of performing arts as it has pioneered many new degree programmes, and the region's first BA (hons) in musical theatre. It has also introduced many well-known performing artistes such as jazz musician Jeremy Monterio.

For students interested in pursuing design, Raffles Design Institute offers a range of courses in product, jewellery, and furniture design apart from courses in animation, games, and digital media visual communication. Rohan Mathur, a student from India, pursuing a BA in product design while explaining his reasons for selecting Raffle, said, "I want to specialise in auto design and Singapore has a great market for such products."


Another area that students can explore is digital media; the industry is expected to grow from US$29 billion in 2005 to US$44 billion by 2011. Recognising the importance of the industry, the Singapore government has allocated SG$1 billion over the next decade to develop digital media. Courses include animation, computer games and graphic designing.

The National Research Foundation of Singapore has allocated SG$500 million in funding R&D in interactive and digital media.The research is expected to involve over 400 students and 100 faculty members of three tertiary institutions offering courses in digital media, namely National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological Institute and Nanyang Polytechnic. According to Singapore Tourism Board sources, in 2008, students interested in pursuing a degree in animation and games development can enrol in the Singapore campus of the Washingtonbased DigiPen Institute of technology. It will offer specialised degree-level courses for games development.

For courses in visual communication, animation, and multimedia, NAFA is an option. "NAFA started offering graphic designing courses 30 years ago and we are very strong in that area and people look forward to recruiting students from our academy," said Liew Chin Choy, senior director, corporate development, NAFA.

Tisch Asia is another institute that offers a Master's in fine arts, with specialisation in animation and digital arts. "Students in animation and digital arts programmes focus on people, gesture, styles and expressions. They will be able to explore new forms of storytelling using real-time and interactive technologies," explained Jean-Marc Gauthier, assistant arts professor, Tisch Asia.
Ngee Ann Polytechnic offers a diploma in film sound and video; NUS offers BA in communications and new media; the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University, offers six programmes in various disciplines of arts and media; Raffles and LASALLE also have Masters and Bachelors programmes in animation, video art, games design, etc.


The fee structure of all the courses varies according to the number of years and the institute. But there is one common provision in most of the institutes — Singapore government offers tuition grants that take care of fee expenses. The grants may vary from 50% to even 100%. Academic excellence is the main criterion for availing these grants. But in return the government asks the awardee to sign a bond under which he/she would have to work for a Singapore registered company for two or three years.

Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group

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