Under One Roof

Published on 18 January 2016

Goodman Arts Centre celebrates another year of hosting multiple artists — and sometimes even members of the public — in one cool compound.

BY JO TAN

There are several famous artists’ villages tucked away in different corners of the globe — in Montmartre, Orissa or California, for example — where assorted artisans come together to mutually inspire and support one another in their art-making. What many might not know is that there’s a pretty prolific artists’ enclave right here in Singapore.

“Goodman Arts Centre (GAC) was developed under the Framework for Arts Spaces initiative,” says Bernadette Yew, head of communcations at The Arts House Limited, which manages GAC. “It provides a tranquil space for artists to create new works. These artists are residents in the GAC, unlike in other places which primarily provide only performance spaces.”

Indeed, the seven-acre GAC is home to no fewer than 42 arts and creative groups, such as the award-winning Checkpoint Theatre, T.H.E Dance Company and Vertical Submarine, which have offices and studio spaces there. If additional working space is needed, there are 31 venues that can be rented, including a Black Box theatre, Multi-Purpose Hall, rehearsal spaces, ceramic studios, music studios, art studios and meeting rooms. There is even a cafe and restaurant, plus several green open spaces with classily-designed seats, for those moments when a break from artistic efforts is needed. The GAC’s compound also houses the offices of the National Arts Council, Singapore’s government-linked arts-promotion body, meaning the authorities are more accessible to residents for grant applications, proposals or other official business.

Life And Soul OF THEP(ART)Y Last year’s Tanjong Goodman arts extravaganza drew thousands of visitors to Goodman Arts Centre.
PHOTO Goodman Arts Centre

Of course, for many artists, the draw of the GAC is, essentially, proximity to other artists. “There is a ‘resident carpenter’ — really, a fellow artist — whom we all run to for help to fabricate stuff when time is tight,” says artist-curator-publisher Michael Lee. “Also, visual artists usually agree to open up their studios for visits by other artists’ students. And since we can’t throw away bulky items within the GAC compound, one artist found a solution to getting rid of certain items he’d been hoarding with the help of another artist, who is ever-open to take over the ownership of those things or sell them. I even know of a theatre company that lends a visual artist space in exchange for the latter helping with the design of the former’s production collaterals.”

Other than practical benefits, there’s also the sheer pleasure of being among like-minded people.

“What do artists talk about when they meet in the GAC corridors?” Lee asks. “They say, ‘How are you?’ or answer, ‘Busy!’ But proceed to jump into industry gossip about which artist has ‘jumped ship’ between galleries, who is curating the next Biennale, who has been shortlisted for the next President’s Young Talents!” Lee laughs. “My favourite conversation involves generous sharing about fabricators’ or suppliers’ services and product quality. And actually, sometimes you don’t even need to talk to know gossip. If you do your rounds around the GAC and notice artist A’s sculpture wrapped up in bubble packing material outside the studio of artist B, you know that their on-and-off romantic and artistic partnership has finally come to an end.”

While the community is close, it’s hardly closed. The public is periodically invited to be a part of it. “To keep up with changing consumer habits in terms of the arts, cafés needed to be included in the GAC to encourage the public to stay on for a longer period of time,” Yew explains. “It’s our hope and intention that diners would start appreciating art just by roaming the vast grounds to see the sculptures such as ‘Yan’s Milk Bottle’ by Iskander Walen, or participating in the workshops our tenant artists offer.”

Accordingly, the GAC hosts the annual Tanjong Goodman, where several residents’ doors are thrown open to the public, often with accompanying events. This year, internationally-acclaimed artist Jason Lim will welcome guests into his studio and talk about his works; Paper Monkey Theatre will teach young ’uns and their parents how to make rod-puppets; and Cake Theatrical Productions’ outreach arm will take guests on an interactive, theatrical tour of the sprawling GAC premises with two animal characters telling stories of the site’s past, present and even future. The GAC will also host its first-ever farmers’ market for those hungry after all that art-appreciation.

About 3,500 visitors enjoyed the festivities last year, with even more expected this year, so don’t miss out. Otherwise, you may have to wait another year.

“This is a platform for the artists to take a breather from their creative work to engage with the public,” Yew explains. “It is not meant to happen on a regular basis, as the main intention is for the artists to have their personal space. But it is important, still, to allow this space to be opened up once a year, for the public to have a rare glimpse of what artists do.”

Tanjong Goodman takes place on 23 January.

HELLO NEIGHBOUR Michael Lee is one of the artists at Goodman Arts Centre who enjoys being close to contemporaries, and the opportunity to check out their art at Tanjong Goodman’s several exhibitions. PHOTO  Tan Hai Han

FAMILY AFFAIR Tanjong Goodman’s attractions include a range of family-friendly classes and performances.

Even a Goodman Has a Past

The GAC compound wasn’t always the arts enclave we know today. Here’s what the venue used to be:

1962-1985
Tun Seri Lanang Secondary School

1992-2007
LASALLE College of the Arts (renamed LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts in 1993)

2007-2009
School of the Arts

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