The arts hub to embrace all
THE Penang Art District (PAD) made headlines as early as 2015 and is conceptualised as a holistic contemporary arts and culture hub for the state.
With a vision to contain the largest concentration of art galleries, exhibition spaces, studios and cultural museums in the country, PAD has run into several roadblocks and its completion date has now been pushed back to 2023.
Location is one of the main challenges, with the original 3.7ha site off Gat Lebuh Macallum in jeopardy due to the planned LRT, a main component in the Penang Transport Master Plan.
The small team that comprises PAD, however, has decided to forge ahead.
Reaching out to existing arts stakeholders and creative pockets in the state, PAD collaborates and supports arts initiatives and has begun organising its own programmes to support the arts scene in Penang.
It ran its first nationwide art competition – Spotlight – in 2018, and its second edition is currently underway with its finalists group exhibition on display at Jetty 35.
PAD also runs Seni Seni, a monthly programme designed to discover stories from Penang’s arts community, and an art writing programme, curator incubator programme and arts entrepreneur bootcamp are listed in its upcoming projects.
PAD project executive Kenny Ng says the team’s current goal was to activate creative spaces through well-designed art-related programmes. “As the physical space is still in planning, our work mostly consists of designing programmes that would benefit the arts community in Penang.
“Our objective is to enhance the value of Penang’s arts and culture by engaging with artists, educators and the community at large through the activation of creative spaces with interactive art-related programmes,” Ng says, adding that PAD’S website (penang artdistrict.com) is also up and running and produces regular art content and information.
When completed, PAD will contain art and public spaces as well as commercial spaces. Under the first category, Ng lists studios, dance and music schools, art and design campuses and co-working spaces, among others, in the project.
Commercial spaces will comprise art galleries, creative retail stores, art supply stores, bookstores as well as F&B retailers.
“When PAD’S physical space is completed, it will be the go-to place for anything arts in Penang. This central mass will benefit the arts community in terms of attracting more interest from the public and visitors in Penang art.
“Our role is to connect this central mass to various art spaces and initiatives in
Penang and we will continue to highlight the existing art spaces and initiatives in town on top of our own physical space. Our role is to complement not to compete,” says Ng.
At present, independent art hubs, arts organisations, art collectives and independent artists are spurring on the arts scene alongside scheduled recurring events like the George Town Festival and George Town Literary Festival.
“Penang is not a new arts hub – the arts scene has been active since the days of the Nanyang art movement (in the 1950s) – but it has gained popularity due to the more accessible street art and George Town’s Unesco status.
Penang is now a rising scene for young artists because of the organic movements and collectives of artists who have found
Penang to be a more accessible, affordable and interesting place for art creation and collaboration,” says Ng.
On growing the local arts scene, Ng urges everyone to start thinking about art as everyday occurrences that can enrich our lives.
“Having more creative spaces like Jetty 35, Soundmaker Studio, Sinkeh, Ruang Kongsi and Narrow Marrow is great as participating in these spaces brings us into relationships with like-minded people who stimulate our thinking.
“To support them, I would say attend their events, talk about art and share their efforts with everyday people.
“Art is not just about buying or spending money on their products or events. It’s also about including artistic efforts in our everyday life.” –