RESOURCEFUL and committed are descriptions rarely applied to youth, but for a group of students from KDU College, no other words could be more fitting.
Led by feisty Karen Tan, 21, a few Diploma in Mass Communication students are planning a street arts festival on campus to bring together students, faculty and the community.
“We want to unite the students of KDU and youth in general while creating a dialogue of sorts with the adults. We want to show the community that college students don't only study and hang out. We can organise activities that will benefit everyone too.”
“Street art is a base on which students can express themselves. When you talk about art, people always think of bourgeois art, which means fine art, using specialised instruments and having clean lines and rules. That is not what we want for our arts festival. We can use ballpoint pens, marker pens and colour pencils to convey what we feel. We want to show people that art should be something that is close to the community, and it can be anything, that it doesn’t matter if it is high art or not, because we are expressing ourselves,” enthuses Karen.
The whole idea was conceived, she shares, when her class was asked by their lecturer and mentor Gary La Faber to draw posters of an imaginary street arts festival. Inspired by a Japanese skateboarder book, Untitled Art History, he asked the students to produce their version of street art, expressing their own ideas and aesthetics.
“At first everyone was a bit shy and inhibited. Yet, as we got into the activity, it became liberating and expanded our imagination. I used to be an art lover, but school and exams killed the interest. So,when I first did the exercise, I felt like I was getting reacquainted with this love that has been buried for so long. I got in touch with colours again, and it helped release my frustration. It felt really good,” reveals Karen.
At the end of the class, everyone put up all the posters on one side of their wall, regardless of aesthetic quality.
Having the posters up was good as a creative expression, adds Karen. “We did not judge each other's work, criticise any poster, or tell anyone to choose another colour or to do it another way, or not stick them up at all.”
Karen felt so good that she pushed for a real street arts festival on campus to provide the same platform for her college mates.
After hounding her lecturer and faculty head, Karen finally got the go-ahead for the project, and since then, it has been non-stop work.
The first task was to paint a mural on the other side of the classroom. More than 30 students got together one Saturday to do the mural that tells of the experience of youth. Globalisation and the influence of media, she remarks, have created a stereotyped image of youth, but in fact each individual is different.
“The image of youth, as portrayed by the media, has been mostly negative. I believe that everyone should be allowed to express their individuality - for example, dress as they want without being ostracised or condemned. Older people always think that the young are sloppy, spoilt, materialistic and aimless, but if they get to know us, they will discover that we are actually not shallow, and are really serious about life,” Karen shares.
Among her friends and committee members, she stresses, are a T-shirt entrepreneur, a budding musician, a filmmaker and an up-and-coming DJ.
The events planned include traditional dance performances, which Karen describes as a dying art among the young.
“Traditional art forms, like dance, is dying among youth, and we want to bring that back. It is a way of raising awareness of our heritage, if you're not aware of what you are missing, you will not care.”
There will also be avant-garde theatre performances, slam poetry, gigs, a T-shirt printing workshop, and even a Dodgeball competition.
“We are having a line dancing workshop too. Contrary to common belief, the young also enjoy line dancing. Actually that is what we want to point out, that there are many common areas of interest shared by the young and old.”
Mohd Ezizul Mohd Taib,18, who is in charge of sponsorship, shares that this has been another aspect in his learning curve.
“This is my first time being involved in organising something like this. My confidence has grown after meeting potential corporate sponsors,” he says.
Mohd Ezizul shares that they are also looking for furniture items like cushions, drapes and sofas for their Bohemian Room, a classroom that they are planning to convert into a lounge and an indoor performance venue.
Karen adds that they are also looking at inviting companies popular with youth, like Starbucks, to set up stalls at the festival.
Marlisa Khairul Ariffin, 23, who is in charge of indoor games shares that she has discovered new things about herself while working on this project.
“It is my first experience working on a project like this. It has been a good experience, especially getting together with the rest of the committee, just like a happy family,” she says.
For retro chick Lee Chwi Lynn, 18, “head” of theatre and performance, the project has been an avenue for exploring her interest.
“I love the arts and everything about the seventies. So for the performance, we will have everything retro and bohemian, except for the drugs of course. There are already skits, monologues and poetry lined up. It will be so much fun, I guarantee,” she gushes.
Mohd Mahadzir, 22, who is overseeing the art activities, is also excited about bringing art into a public space. Activities in store include tile art, paper painting and “chopped boards”
As proud “father” La Faber puts it, “This is what our youth need, a platform to express themselves. Working on projects and exploring their potential will make them better adults. We should give them support and not hold them back.”
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