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Arts On The Move

Arts on the Move is an ongoing public arts programme by Think City, in collaboration with Prasarana Malaysia Berhad, designed to bring a range of arts and culture activities to KL's rail transport system. Think City Programme Manager, SUSIE KUKATHAS, tells us why the project benefits the city-dweller.

 

Every day hundreds of thousands of commuters travel by car, bus and train to the different parts of Kuala Lumpur and beyond for work, study and play. In bringing arts to the people, Think City,  in partnership with Prasarana Malaysia Berhad, plans not only to foster an appreciation for the arts, but also to provide some reprieve for the weary city-dweller.

In order to capture the attention of a lot of people, hosting an arts programme at a busy train station made a lot of sense. The story began with the Masjid Jamek station. Susie Kukathas, Programme Manager at Think City tells us the story. 

 

 

“Arts on the Move came about because of the work that Think City does in the Masjid Jamek area - we have been programming a number of activities in Medan Pasar, and also doing some work on Lebuh Ampang,” said Susie Kukathas, Programme Manager for Think City.

“The idea was to capture the people that use the train station, which make up a large number of the population - whether it’s people just living, working or studying in the area - and to programme some activities that they would enjoy.”

Think City had approached Prasarana about the idea and it so happened that a similar thought happened to be brewing.

“Prasarana had been thinking about a programme along the same lines, of events and activities occurring in their stations. However they were grappling with a way to make them sustainable. So, we proposed a plan and struck up a collaboration with them,” Susie said.

The next step was to programme the performances for the station.  Masjid Jamek station acts as a hub with two train lines converging, which makes it the third most-used station in Kuala Lumpur. The challenge in curating shows was - who should the shows be for?

Susie explained: “I tried to look at the diversity of people moving through the station as an opportunity and not a challenge. It broadened my selection process and so I chose things that would appeal to young people, older people. I had traditional dikir barat from Kelantan, modern jazz, songs from Western musicals,  dance performances by the Aswara Dance Company, traditional Indian sitar music, Chinese drum performances by Hands Percussion, and many more.”

 

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The Mahavidya Dance Theatre company entertaining commuters at the Masjid Jamek LRT station.

“The idea was to capture the people that use the train station, which make up a large number of the population - whether it’s people just living, working or studying in the area - and to programme some activities that they would enjoy.”

Apart from performances at the station, the programme also included reinventing the mood and atmosphere of the uniform and expected spaces within the train station.

“In the Masjid Jamek station itself, there’s a tunnel connecting Central Market to Jalan Melayu. It was a rather dull stretch of the station and we wanted to break the monotony of that concrete uninteresting space to make it more friendly, and give commuters something interesting to look at while they were passing through.

“We decided to curate photography and other visual arts for that space. We showed art from five different artists from the Love Me In My Batik exhibition,  which showed at the Ilham Gallery. Currently, we have a photography exhibition by Studio DL called Resonance, depicting scenes and elements of daily life from around the Masjid Jamek area, including kopitiams and little stall owners, juxtaposed with images of dancers from Aswara.

“We hope that people will take time out of their busy schedules to enjoy the art and that it refreshes them a little in their day to day commute,” Susie added.

 

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A piece from the 'Love Me In My Batik' exhibition by Datuk Chua Thean Teng

 

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Part of the artwork created by Studio DL adorning the walls of the Masjid Jamek LRT station.

“We hope that people will take time out of their busy schedules to enjoy the art and that it refreshes them a little in their day to day commute."  

One key aspect of Arts on the Move is that no tickets are required for watching the shows, and for Susie, this is important especially from a point of creating greater access to the arts.

“All performances are free and for a token of 80 sen, anyone can get into the station and watch 5 minutes of a performance or all of a performance. Many people can't afford to go into a theatre or a club or venue to watch performances - the kind of shows we’re bringing into the station, and it’s been interesting to see the faces of people light up when they see something being performed, because they’re not expecting it.

“I’ve met many people who say that the performances have given them something whether it’s a bit of reprieve to forget about work or study stress. I’ve seen  a mother who just waited at the station on the way home because she wanted her son who was in a wheelchair to experience a performance that he wouldn't normally have access to.”

 

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All performances at Arts on the Move are free.

 

According to Susie, the programme has also generated interest in the different artistes and acts taking place.

“We’ve had quite a few events organisers stop and ask people to perform at their events, so it’s been a great avenue for our performers to reach out to new audiences and to get other work as well.”

And what’s next for Arts on the Move?

Susie points out that reaction to the shows have been very positive and she hopes to continue expanding the programme.

“We’ve had good responses - big crowds stopping, once we even had to have Polis Bantuan cordoning off an area to stop people from falling down the stairs; some performances generate very large crowds.

“It’s also been great for performers because for most of them it’s their first time performing at a train station and they’re able to reach out to people they don’t normally perform to. I believe that Rapid KL is keen on replicating this project in other stations. It would require funding and the hope is that it will expand to other locations or stations,” said Susie.

See footage of Arts on the Move in action:

 

 

Arts on the Move continues through 2017. For the programme calendar, see facebook.com/mythinkcity.

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