Ten years ago, she organised the first visual arts group exhibition for Singapore artists at New York’s Asian American Arts Centre to celebrate the island city country’s 40th birthday. With the big obligation that came with that, Dr Hong-Ling Wee told herself she’ll never do it again. Fast forward 10 years later, not only does she produce another show, she does it twice as big. “Nostalgia is a powerful fuel”, says Hong-Ling, scientist turned award-winning artist. Visionary, organizer and overall kick-ass woman, this artist (and now festival director) is spearheading Something To Write Home About, the 1st Singapore Arts Festival in New York City, happening from 12th-22nd September 2015.
We’ve all seen the SG50 signs and events in Singapore, but citizens abroad (specifically NYC) are not left behind thanks to this festival. Be it artists based in Singapore and/or the United States, everyone here has 2 things in common – Singapore & Art. Prominent theatre/dance groups in Singapore such as The Necessary Stage, Checkpoint Theatre and Maya Theatre are arriving to LA MaMa Theatre (NYC) to perform and share their works.
The idea first started last June for Hong-Ling whenever she interacted with creatives in New York. She realized the vast amount of passionate, talented Singaporean artists and it became clear to her why this had to be done.
“There is such a big group of us here, and so many are accomplished, if we just pull together, the collective impact is far greater than the sum of the individual parts…That is the most gratifying thing – to see each creatively excelling in the craft they do”.
Poets, story tellers, dancers, visual and literary artists, musicians and the culinary arts (of course local delights have to be included) by chef Larry Reutens will be served on some nights. The film series event is curated by award winning film-maker, Kirsten Tan, another highlight of the festival. Hosted by producer/writer Jeane Reveendran and yours truly, moi.
As the very first citizen-initiated Singapore arts festival, the team was faced with immense obstacles. However, Hong-Ling says it with sincere strength and heart – “Singaporeans are very mobile citizens of the world…I think it’s the feeling that we can do it – we do not always need to rely on top-down organizations. The average citizen is more capable than he/she thinks. And that if we work in a community, we are much bigger than we give ourselves credit for. We are opening people’s eyes here and internationally to a slice of Singapore life… Every time I’m with the creative people involved, I’m so clear and inspired by their work.”
This project has definitely become a lot bigger than she imagined and with the amazing lineup and attention it has garnered, I can see why. Amidst the preparation and madness, I had to ask Hong-Ling what she wanted people to walk away with from this experience?
“For Singaporeans, I want them to be reminded of home. For non-Singaporeans, they see what we’re about – we are more similar than we are different. We have a group of very talented performers and artists – making a contribution to world culture.” With a laugh, she concludes “…when all this ends, I just hope to walk away alive!”
With the lineup of dynamic artists in the festival, I know for certain everyone will not only walk out more alive but buzzing from the beautiful partnership of our little red dot artists and the big apple.
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By Celebrity Columnist, Elizabeth Lazan