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Paint for a cause: Blending art & community service

Updated: May 22, 2020

"Paint for a cause" campaign organisers & Nagomi Art instructors (from L-R):

Wendy (Listening Works), Doris (Finger Hope), Audrey (Art Peace) & Gina (Art of Heart)

If there was ever a time that we needed a calming activity, it would have to be now when most of us are experiencing insecurity and anxiety during the 8-week circuit breaker.

Thanks to a group of 4 local art instructors specialising in a Japanese healing art form called Nagomi Art, this therapeutic creative process has been brought into people’s homes through a series of online workshops. The group will be running their last workshop on May 31st for the campaign, focusing on the quintessential Singaporean theme of food.

At the same time, the instructors have also empowered their workshop participants to actively support vulnerable communities during this unprecedented situation, by using their workshops to raise funds online for Project HomeWorks.

Founded in Japan by Mr Hosoya Norikatsu, Nagomi Art uses sensorial touch from painting with fingers to help bring a sense of harmony and inner peace to the artist. There is something especially therapeutic about an art form where fingers become the brush on the canvas.

“Nagomi art uses this simple and unique technique of drawing with your fingers and soft pastel. The paintings are usually very soft, very gentle, and it allows you to express your feelings and thoughts through the colours,” said Ms Doris Yu, a certified Nagomi Art instructor.

Pastel Nagomi Art paintings by Doris, Audrey, Wendy &Gina (L-R)

Since receiving her instructor’s certification from the Japan Pastel Hope Art Association in 2018, Doris has been running Pastel Nagomi Art workshops as an art therapy service for groups like prison inmates and seniors at Thye Hua Kwan Nursing Home.

“I’ve seen the elderly in Thye Hua Kwan feel more confident and positive, especially some of them who are lonely and have no one to visit them. Their initial reaction is always ‘I don't know how to draw’, but when we do it with them, at the end of the session they are always smiling and very happy,” shared Doris.

“It’s so funny, some of the elderly don't even want to look at me (when I do a demo at the start of the workshop). They tell me things like ‘Aiya i know already, it’s always the same technique’. And they really do know what to do. So this Nagomi art is really for anyone and everyone,” she quipped.

As with most businesses, Doris and the 3 other instructors had to close their studio spaces, suspend all workshops and find ways to adapt digitally during the “circuit breaker”.

The team behind the fundraising campaign.

The group already had a previous fundraiser under their belt. Last November, they organised an art exhibition featuring over 100 art pieces contributed by various instructors, as well as 20 pieces painted by seniors from Thye Hua Kwan.

Inspired by all the acts of kindness from Singaporeans towards migrant workers in the recent COVID-19 situation, the group decided to experiment with a virtual fundraiser to support other vulnerable communities in need.

After chancing upon Habitat Singapore, they set their heart on supporting the same group served by Project HomeWorks - seniors living alone and low-income families.

“We just feel that this group of people are always overlooked. They are probably not the victims of COVID-19, but this group of people like the cleaners and other low-income essential workers also need a lot of community support. And finding Habitat Singapore felt like fate, because I do believe everyone needs a home that is clean, safe and decent,” said Doris.

Within a week of starting their fundraising campaign, Doris and her group of instructors successfully raised over $15,000 from their students and supporters. Each of their 8 online sessions split across Labour Day and Vesak Day saw an average of 180 participants from Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Art pieces for the sessions were centered around each instructor’s concept of home such as a house, the Tembusu tree and orchid on Singapore’s $5 note, as well as the scenic view of Gardens By The Bay.

The group will be running their last workshop in support of Project HomeWorks on Sunday 31 May. The 4 sessions will focus on painting food for specific meals - breakfast, lunch, high-tea and dinner.

If you’d like to try your hand at Pastel Nagomi Art, sign up for all 4 sessions with a $50 donation to the group’s “Paint For A Cause” campaign!


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