Profile: Jean Loo

Published on 13 April 2017

Community artist Jean Loo makes the case for the arts empowering children from less privileged and special needs communities.

By Melanie Lee

Photo: Stacey Anne Rodrigues

If Jean Loo were a superhero, she would be the Love-a-lot Care Bear because “I’m a kid from the ‘80s!” she exclaims with a giggle. But besides that, the effervescent 32-year-old founder of LOGUE, a community art and content creation studio, has plenty of love to give.

In 2014, she and her LOGUE partner Yang Huiwen piloted the three-month programme Superhero Me, under the Lien Foundation. It was a values-based craft programme inspiring 15 preschoolers from Lengkok Bahru (a neighbourhood with many less-privileged families) to develop a stronger sense of self through costume crafting. The result? Watch the touching video below that chronicles the kids’ growth during this project:

“This deep experience showed us the potential of what community art can do. This group of children became really special and they have been our anchor in whatever we do for Superhero Me. They are in Primary 3 now and we continue to support them on a volunteer basis,” Loo says.

The following year, Superhero Me grew to a two-week festival at the National Library Building. It was targeted at young families with the key message that Singapore could be more than a tuition nation. “We took the ideas of craft and imagination where participants could create badges of resilience for themselves or play old-school games like Zero Point,” Loo recalls.

During this public festival, Loo wondered why there were hardly any kids with special needs or kids in wheelchairs around. This fuelled the next phase of Superhero Me, where Loo and Yang decided to streamline advocacy efforts to children with special needs. In 2016, “Superhero Me – The Special Edition” presented Planet of Possibility, an experiential art show put together by 60 children from an inclusive preschool, three special education schools and the “pioneer kids” from the Lengkok Bahru neighbourhood through collaborative workshops. For this exhibition, there were also inclusive tours where children from mainstream preschools were paired with children from special schools to go through the art experience together. See their journey here:

“Through this exhibition, I realised a lot more can be done to provide platforms where children with or without special needs can interact. How children look at other children with special needs or disabilities stems from their first experience. Being in a positive setting where all kinds of children with diverse abilities can be heroes in their own way is an important narrative to expose them to,” Loo explains.

Superhero Me’s latest endeavour – Project Infinitude – took a musical turn. This special three-month mentorship was a collaboration with conductor Wong Kah Chun, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music and Mahler Foundation to bring classical music to children who do not have access to it. Fifteen conservatory students worked with 20 children to come up with a public music concert at Enabling Village this March.

“We were completely in awe of how the children blossomed. Many of our volunteers teared up at certain points because when the children pick up the instruments, it was like they suddenly become different people. The level of confidence, the focus and the fire in their eyes just playing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star were immense,” Loo says.

There are now plans to organise regular inclusive arts programmes where the public can get involved and send their kids to. Superhero Me also recently received the NAC Seed Grant, something which Loo is grateful for as it would help them plan more effectively for the long-term.

“The arts is a platform just bursting with potential because there is no right or wrong, or fixed standards on what is beautiful and what is not. It creates a space where everyone is safe and confident enough to make mistakes and be their true selves.”

Photo: Marvin Tang
Photo: Marvin Tang

Click here to find out more about what Captain Jean Loo and the rest of her Superhero Me team are up to!

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