Grants inspire art-making in local communities

Young Woodpreneur 118 equips youth with woodworking and laser craft skills and a platform through which their work can be sold.

AS it redefines Kuala Lumpur’s skyline, the Merdeka 118 precinct – the world’s second tallest building – is continuing to inspire new ideas for how local communities can be supported in the arts.

The 7.7ha precinct is funded by Malaysian investment management company Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB), which believes in fostering art-making.

In fulfilling this aim, PNB’s subsidiary PNB Merdeka Ventures Sdn Bhd (PNBMV) announced seven new projects under Merdeka 118 Community Grants Programme now in Phase 2 of Cycle 2.

The grants were introduced in 2021 in partnership with Think City, which was set up by Khazanah Nasional to assist in urban arts policymaking as well as implementation.

Jamal Tommy Gallery’s watercolour competition and exhibition will showcase local talents and the essence of Merdeka 118.Jamal Tommy Gallery’s watercolour competition and exhibition will showcase local talents and the essence of Merdeka 118.

The first phase of Cycle 2 began in 2022 in support of eight projects.

PNBMV chief executive officer Tengku Datuk Ab Aziz Tengku Mahmud said, “Our goal through Merdeka 118 grants is to encourage local communities to reimagine their activities, enhance collaboration, capture opportunities, and thrive.

“This is why we are delighted to support more projects in the second phase and are also pleased to see the first phase projects performing well.”

Sayur in the City concentrates on urban farming and products that can be made from the harvest.Sayur in the City concentrates on urban farming and products that can be made from the harvest.

Among earlier projects creating a positive impact is manekNya, a Peranakan-inspired brand empowering 100 B40 women through embroidery training.

The women underwent eight weeks of training and trainees with potential to become artisans continued to be mentored.

Another success story was Suburbia Office Enterprise’s Somewhere in the Kuala, a children’s architecture book.

The well-received publication has been reprinted and is now available in popular tourist bookstores like Riwayat, Eslite and Tsutaya.

These two projects are just a glimpse of the overall success of the first phase of Cycle 2.

The remaining six projects are progressing well, according to PNBMV.

Among the seven new grant beneficiaries is the “Young Woodpreneur 118” programme by social enterprise Re:Kayu.

This initiative aims to nurture participants’ skills and creativity through wood and laser craft workshops.

Thirty people, mostly from surrounding public housing, will receive training towards a Malaysian Skills Certificate.

Subsequently, a catalogue will showcase their crafts at Subang Jaya City Council’s (MBSJ) building shop and social media pages.

Re:Kayu will also promote participants’ creations in social enterprise pop-up markets.

Income creation via arts management skills is another programme goal that benefitted a Cycle 1 grantee so much that a repeat application for funds was made for Cycle 2.

The grantee, People Systems Consultancy Income Upliftment Initiative, aims to support low-income communities through financial literacy via its FinRise app.

Meanwhile, a decoupage project by Hanuni Halim will conduct craft and online marketing workshops, engaging 30 participants at a go, with selected decoupage items featured for online sale.

Focusing on environmental sustainability, “Community Plastic Upcycling Empower-ment” project by Hara Maker will offer plastic upcycling workshops to create products from recycled materials.

Selected upcycled products will be made available for online retail as well as at its stores.

To encourage people to explore the precinct in an interactive way, Cycle 2 will offer a virtual reality walk called “Go International’s Move8 VR 360 Walk-a-hunt @ Merdeka 118”.

Sayur in the City is another noteworthy grant recipient.

This project focuses on urban farming and the making of drinks, ice confectionery, and syrups from urban farm harvests.

It will also support the business expansion of “Eats Shoots & Roots”, a local city farming initiative that teaches the community to grow their own food.

Lastly, Jamal Tommy Gallery’s “Merdeka 118 dan Persekitaran-nya Dalam Cat Air” project will host a watercolour painting competition, followed by an exhibition, to capture the essence of the iconic tower.

Proceeds from the paintings sale will go directly to the artists, but accompanying postcards made from the exhibited art will be sold to benefit both artists and gallery.

Merdeka 118 grant recipients will also have the opportunity to participate in community markets at Stadium Merdeka and Peszta festival for music, arts and culture in Kuala Lumpur.

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