The Star Malaysia - Star2

The arts hub to em­brace all

- An­drea Filmer

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 art­dis­ 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.” –

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