From left: Dr Stanley Quek, Chairman of The Ireland Funds Singapore; Javeus Toh, his son and LASALLE President Professor Steve Dixon.
Like many applicants to LASALLE’s MA Art Therapy programme, Javeus Toh’s interest in the therapeutic power of the arts arose from personal circumstances. He had graduated with a BA (Hons) Film degree from the Puttnam School of Film and Animation in LASALLE in 2018. But unlike his peers who continued onto careers in the film and media industries, Javeus found himself having to balance his career in film and being a caregiver.
The responsibility was immense, and as with many caregivers, Javeus frequently felt out of his depth. “I struggled with feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy in providing the necessary assistance,” he reflects. “Witnessing the daily difficulties and, eventually, the devastating climax of those difficulties had a great influence on me.”
Borne out of the despair and frustration was also a newfound conviction to want to make a difference in the lives of people dealing with mental health issues. Drawing on his training in film, particularly in production design, Javeus came to recognise the therapeutic power of art.
“I wanted to bridge the gap between art and healing, using my abilities to positively impact the well-being of others,” Javeus says of this watershed moment in his life. “Art was a way for me to channel my empathy, creativity and newfound understanding into a career where I could make a significant difference in people’s lives.”
And that was how Javeus found himself back at LASALLE, this time in the College’s pioneering MA Art Therapy programme. Still in his first year of studies, he sheds light on what students can expect in the programme.
It’s been a few months since you started on this new arts discipline. How has it been easing back into academia?
The past few months in this programme have been a genuinely revitalising experience that has exceeded my initial expectations. It's been a time that not only rekindled my love of learning, but also revealed the breadth and significance of the field I've decided to study. The educators in this programme have been excellent – their dedication to engaging and mentoring us students has been outstanding.
Despite the inherent difficulties that come with digging into sophisticated knowledge, instructors have consistently shown their unflinching support. The learning environment is more than just academic activities, it is also a collaborative area where instructors offer assistance whenever needed. Their helpful links and insightful pointers have been invaluable in assisting our further improvement on this learning trip.
Have you been surprised by any aspect of what you are studying so far?
One unexpected and welcome focus has been on self-care. The educators place an importance on our physical and emotional health, urging us to take pauses and care for our entire health. This comprehensive approach to education not only enriches our academic experience, but also emphasises the necessity of maintaining balance and mindfulness in our personal and professional life. I’ve found that this educational chapter has been both fulfilling and beneficial to my general well-being because of the encouragement and consideration of my lecturers.
How does it feel to the inaugural recipient of the MA Art Therapy Scholarship supported by The Ireland Funds Singapore?
I’m grateful not only for the financial support this scholarship provides but also for the recognition of the potential impact art therapy can have on individuals and communities. The Ireland Funds Singapore's generosity has definitely lightened the load of my academic pursuit and the validation of an esteemed organisation believing in my potential to contribute to the realm of art therapy is both humbling and profoundly inspiring.
I feel blessed to have the chance to pursue further education in a field that merges my passion for art with the healing power it inherently holds. As I embark on this educational endeavour, I am committed to harness the knowledge and skills gained to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who may benefit from art as a therapeutic medium.
What do you plan to do once you complete your studies in art therapy?
I'm still in the process of figuring out my plans after completing my MA Art Therapy degree. There's so much to explore and learn within this field, and I find myself drawn to various aspects of it. At this point, I don't have a concrete answer to what comes next, and I don’t think I will until I finish my thesis in year two. The thesis process, I believe, will not only deepen my understanding of art therapy but may also reveal new passions and directions for my future.
I'm keeping an open mind and staying flexible as I navigate through this journey, and I'm excited to see where it takes me.
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