Giving back through skills-based volunteering
How one staff used his talents and specialised skills to help special needs artists.
The three-part online art curriculum was developed entirely in-house by Daniel Foo, Changi Airport’s Art Custodian.
It started with a simple desire to use his passion for art to give back. Daniel Foo, Senior Manager of Design Management at CAG is Changi Airport’s Art Custodian and takes care of the airport’s art collection. He was curating a tour on Changi Airport’s art installations for the special needs artists at Metta Welfare Association (MWA), one of Changi Foundation’s beneficiaries. When Covid-19 hit, his plans had to be put on hold.
While groups can no longer gather at the airport, Daniel explored how he could still bring art to his audience via an online format. All he needed was to make some tweaks to his materials.
One of the key objectives was to expose the artists to more genres of art through observing their natural surroundings. Keeping that in mind, Daniel developed an online art module with three one-hour classes that ran weekly. They were conducted twice for the eight resident artists as they had to be split into two groups. Each lesson was designed to be bite-sized and covered a single topic, to allow sufficient time for appreciation and practice thereafter. For instance, in one of the classes, Daniel touched on clouds – identifying the different types of clouds, how they are depicted in various art forms and inspiring the artists to create their own cloud artwork.
Daniel encouraging the MWA artists to use a kitchen roll to see if they can spot different shapes of clouds in the sky.
Another learning objective was to encourage the artists to converse confidently and be able to hold short conversations. To actively engage with the artists throughout the session, Daniel played short video clips of art installations from around the world, including those in Changi Airport, shared interesting stories, and organised simple activities to facilitate interaction and discussions.
With classes carried out online without any face-to-face communication, the corporate social responsibility team was initially worried that response might be lukewarm. But the programme turned out to be very well received by the MWA artists. Every Friday when the class was held, the artists looked forward to the lesson with their homework completed way ahead of time. They were also seen opening up to Daniel by sharing their personal stories, likes and hobbies, when they are traditionally more reserved with strangers. At the final class, Daniel conducted it in person at MWA and was met with enthusiasm by the artists.
Eva Soh, Senior Alumni Officer at MWA said, “CAG and Daniel made this project a successful one through the trust and open communication with MWA. The curriculum that Daniel developed not only complemented what the artists learnt at MWA, he made it engaging and fun, as well as took the extra effort to connect with them. The enthusiasm displayed by our artists shows that they really liked the classes and look forward to them every week.”
Recounting his experience with skills-based volunteering, Daniel said humbly, “I was simply sharing what I know with others. But the satisfaction and joy I derived from the entire process made it such an immensely fulfilling experience. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing about my passion for art and I hope to inspire the MWA artists to continue pursuing their interest in art.
“With giving back, you often gain more than you give. I thought I was using art to broaden their horizons, but they taught me to appreciate even more the simplicity and beauty of life.”
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