Months and months and months

It’s been an eventful 9 months since my last post. High time to take stock of where I am with my Arts At The Heart and “No Comment” Painting-Play business in Singapore.

My gorgeous red-doored studio in the old fireman’s house on Bukit Timah Road was a very happy home for 6 months. I was allowed groups of up to 5 according to Singapore Phase 2 Covid-19 regulations and that worked perfectly for most families, small groups of friends, solo parents and kids and other mixes and matches. I was able to witness the birth of over 1000 uniquely expressive paintings and watch the bare walls fill with the signature Closlieu criss-cross of colours. Pure joy!

In November 2020, I was thrilled to start offering Painting-Play four days a week after school plus one early morning “sunrise session” as a cross-curricular activity at Dulwich College Singapore. Faced with the logistical challenge of having no specially designed Closlieu room to use, I used poetic licence to create a mobile safe space with a similar womb-like and other-worldly feeling to that of the classic window-less, kraft-papered Closlieu: eight wheeled pin-boards covered in kraft paper arranged in a circle around the table-palette, nestled between banana trees, pandan and ginger in the school roof garden. Fortunately a gazebo and electric fans give us shelter and a breeze to endure the heat and occasional shower. In lightening storms, we wheel the whole lot to the lunch hall.

At the end of December, the old fire station and all the little houses were definitively reclaimed by the Singapore Land Authority , so I moved out, taking the archived paintings with me and temporarily re-homed them…in my own home.

In January 2021, I started substitute teaching at Dulwich College Singapore in Early Years and Junior School, which kept me busy while I reassessed the rental situation and realised just how lucky I’d been to have my first Closlieu in such a characterful and affordable little red house!

In February, after Phase 3 was announced, I was allowed to welcome up to 8 people at a time to the school roof garden Closlieu. The school leadership recognised the benefits of Painting-Play and helped me to be able to offer places to staff for free as part of their staff wellbeing programme. Unfortunately due to Covid, we were not allowed to include Early Years in the CCA programme, but I was delighted to have eclectic multi-age groups including Year 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s and 7s (aged around 7-12), Year 12 (aged around 17) and staff.

April saw the grand opening of my long awaited private studio. Where in the densely packed metropolis of Singapore had I found an overlooked space? A spacious room with a view that had previously been reserved for VIP visitors to my local area?? My own guest room after all! The silver lining of having no family and friends to visit us here is that our unused guest room makes the perfect Closlieu.

Now here we are in May 2021. Weeks of worries over being able to renew my work permit in Singapore were put to rest last week. I would be allowed to stay until 2024 if I wanted to! We have just wished our Muslim friends a Happy Eid and heard today that Singapore is moving backwards towards circuit-breaker-like rules on Sunday 16th May: No social gatherings of more than two; working from home wherever possible… No news about schools and CCAs yet. Suspense…

However, I take heart that back in May and June of 2020, I had teamed up with Pam Guneratnam at KitaReka in Kuala Lumpur to offer online expressive art facilitation. I am hopeful that this model could be a way to continue creating safe spaces for non-judgemental painting and drawing – for the benefit of my current clients and beyond.

It’s clear that every increase in cases and subsequent tightening of Covid regulations provokes a spike in anxiety in people of all ages. Arts At The Heart and “No Comment” is a meaningful part of the tool kit we all need for resilience, stress-management and hope in these testing times.

In 7 months time, our family will be returning to Switzerland. One of the most pressing items on my To Do list is to find the perfect person to adopt my baby business and help it grow into the confident grown-up business it deserves to be.

I am already interviewing some highly skilled, experienced and passionate candidates and feeling optimistic that Painting-Play has a great future ahead in Singapore – one that I will continue to support in every way I can.

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