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Singapore: Lasalle aims to become contemporary arts hub for Southeast Asia

Singaporean-based Lasalle College of the Arts has used its annual graduation showcase to highlight its role as a contemporary arts hub for Southeast Asian students and signal its intentions to increase the burgeoning appreciation of the arts throughout the region.

College president Steve Dixon opens the Lasalle Show Exhibition. Photo: LASALLE College of the Arts.College president Steve Dixon opens the Lasalle Show Exhibition. Photo: LASALLE College of the Arts.

Lasalle hopes to further push a burgeoning understanding of contemporary art throughout Southeast Asia

The Lasalle Show, which runs from April through May, showcases work from the college’s students across all levels and areas of study, including visual arts, music, theatre and architecture.

Provost and vice-president academic Venka Purushothaman said as investment and interest in contemporary art increased in Singapore, the college was looking to leverage its position and attract students from Southeast Asia and beyond and bridge Eastern and Western artistic styles.

“There is generally an increasing interest in arts culture, creative industries, design”

“Singapore itself… is not quite Western, it’s not quite Eastern; it’s a blend of both,” he said.

“It will always be that at the confluence of these two elements. It needs to speak to the contemporary because it is drawing from the rich heritage of established systems in the West.”

Speaking with The PIE News, Purushothaman said Southeast Asia was also becoming a lucrative market for providers in the region due to its population’s relatively low average age.

“Southeast Asia is also very interesting because [it] is one of the fastest growing areas in the world,” he said.

“We’re seeing with this kind of growth, you’ve got a whole new generation of young people wanting to engage and make a difference to the world that they want to build for the 21st century.”

Currently attracting a third of its students from abroad, Purushothaman added Lasalle hoped to further push a burgeoning understanding of contemporary art throughout the region, which has traditionally prioritised the STEM and commerce fields.

“If we can be a space for young, emerging Asians to actually articulate their own sense of place and purpose in Asia, I think that will be a great success for us.”

As well as bringing students in, Lasalle president Steve Dixon said the arts college aimed to increase its international partnerships and study abroad opportunities to help Singapore have a broader role in the contemporary art scene.

“We’re looking for a majority of our students to go on exchange, and there are opportunities for all students to go on international exchange, and we’re linking up with different international partners with that,” he told The PIE.

“There’s a growing reputation. I think there’s a recognition of the ambition here, and the ambition we instil in students.”

So far, the college has earned several enviable accolades, including students picking up three of the five President’s Young Talents awards in Singapore, as well as two film students nominated for the BAFTA Student Film Awards.

“Simply doing it all for the glory of Singapore won’t be sufficient”

“There is a real renaissance in a lot of countries, and we also benefit from that in terms of the students that come here,” Dixon said.

“There is generally an increasing interest in arts culture, creative industries, design… and we’re also starting to team up with international institutions to look at joint short courses or longer programs.”

As creative industries become more transient and require professionals to travel for work globally, Adam Knee, dean of the faculty of fine arts, media & creative industries said it was essential to provide mobility opportunities.

“They really need to be able to get out there in order to achieve what students are supposed to strategically in terms of the bottom line,” he said.

“Altruistically, in terms of what Lasalle would really want to do at a higher level, we want to develop more sophisticated thinkers, we want to develop people who are going to help the world in various kinds of ways.

“Simply doing it all for the glory of Singapore won’t be sufficient for that.”

Several markets have begun to notice the increased interest in arts and creative industries. In early 2018, Education New Zealand co-funded the feature film Mortal Engines to showcase the county’s creative industries.

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