Yee Isabelle and Phoo Myet Che, Pearl arrived at LASALLE College of the Arts’ BA(Hons) Arts Management programme with a desire to pursue a career in the arts, and an awareness that there remained much to learn.
Isabelle had just graduated from a local polytechnic specialising in business, certain in the knowledge that she wanted to pursue her long-standing interest in theatre. After hearing from a senior at LASALLE about the holistic mix of arts, administration and management at the arts management programme, Isabelle was convinced that it was a good fit for her. “I was able to envision myself dedicated to an industry I am passionate about, knowing that I would be supported by a group of like-minded practitioners and managers,” she explained.
On the other hand, Burmese native Pearl had come to Singapore harbouring a love for photography and a dream of founding a gallery or arts residency space back home. She had hoped to gain the necessary administrative skill sets in the BA(Hons) Arts Management programme, but instead found the programme shifting her trajectory.
“There were so many opportunities that came out of the programme,” Pearl said of her time in LASALLE. “And they opened up my perspective about the range of ways that I could engage with the arts.”
Pearl’s experience working on Rediscover: Telok Ayer with artist and then-LASALLE BA(Hons) Fine Arts student Sarah Lin (pictured left) was especially pivotal. The process allowed her to observe research-based art-making practices, with the artist acting as a knowledge producer who uncovered stories and history, transforming them into artworks. The blend of practice and research ultimately led Pearl to shift her career path from arts administrator to practising creative and artist in her own right.
Isabelle similarly credits LASALLE for a transformative experience. “There were many opportunities for collaborating with the different disciplines, which broadened my perspective and bettered my practice. Learning how to apply my skill sets across multiple disciplines provided me with an edge and allowed me to improve my skills in managing our theatre industry."
However, after their graduation, their paths diverged – Isabelle went on to become an associate librarian at library@esplanade, developing programmes of her own in tandem with artists and organisations. While Pearl’s path took her down the road less travelled, leading her to pursue her own creative practice as an artist – making zines, applying for artist residencies and freelancing on different arts projects – all while balancing a day job as a grants project officer at the National Heritage Board.
Some may wonder how two graduates from the same programme can end up pursuing such divergent career paths. But for Isabelle and Pearl, their careers combine the strategic thinking associated with administration and management with the cultural context and awareness of the arts scene, allowing them to make the best of both worlds.
We take a peek into the lives of these two LASALLE graduates and how their experiences in the BA(Hons) Arts Management programme have shaped their career paths in widely different ways.
Yee Isabelle: Accessibility and the arts in libraries
Post-graduation, Isabelle initially worked as a freelance project manager in the theatre industry. However, it was only when she found a job opening at the National Library Board (NLB) that she was able to try developing original programmes.
“I was grateful for the opportunity to develop and implement my own programmes as well as work on my project management skills,” Isabelle remarks. “It’s also a privilege to work so closely with artists and arts organisations.”
For Isabelle, her current job at NLB lets her try new things while leveraging her experience in an arts-adjacent company. The curation, management and analysis, coupled with the development and cultivation of new partnerships within the theatre and dance community, allow her to continue working towards her goal of making the arts more accessible to people.
8:30am I arrive in the office and usually start the day catching up with my colleagues over a quick breakfast, or reading e-newspapers on the NLB mobile app.
9:00am I spend around half an hour checking my emails and planning my tasks for the day.
9:30am Today, I am setting up the Dance DVD display at the library@esplanade, Dance Village. As part of my job, I work together with my team-mates to expand and promote NLB’s dance and theatre collection for all patrons to enjoy. This means we get to “shop” for theatre and dance materials for the library! Before the shopping, we assess and select the materials, including books and DVDs. We then put together the specially curated display or resource list for patrons to learn more about dance and theatre.
10:00am For the rest of the morning, our team meets to discuss how we could improve operations and services in the libraries, including how we could provide more inclusive learning opportunities for everyone. I have always been interested in exploring inclusive arts, and am happy to be part of NLB’s accessibility team to brainstorm and innovate more accessible features, services, resources and programmes across our libraries and archives.
12:00pm I usually have lunch with my colleagues or friends who are working around the Esplanade. Sometimes, I enjoy my alone time by catching up on reading, crocheting or gaming, especially during weeks when my social calendar is packed!
1:00pm After a good lunch break, I go through my emails again. As we have spaces within our library for arts organisations and practitioners to conduct programmes for free, we receive quite a number of venue sponsorship requests for talks, performances, workshops and exhibitions. I go through and assess the proposals from artists and producers as they come in. I also assist patrons with their queries on our collections, like accessing reference materials, acquiring books and scripts, and supporting their research.
2:00pm My scope of work includes programming, marketing, ticketing and managing programme logistics like event set-up and assisting in sound and tech. So I spend the next part of my afternoon preparing for programmes held at the library.
4:00pm I work closely with partner artists and arts organisations to collaborate and support them in programmes that help patrons learn more about the arts. It is always a joy to meet new artists and learn about their practice, and I love to connect with them during talks or programmes.
5:00pm I usually spend the final hour planning, especially if there is a programme event happening the following day. I will prepare and print the collaterals as well as help set up the stage, audio-visual equipment and seating. This gives me ample time to pre-empt and troubleshoot any technical issues, if any.
6:00pm Before I head home, I like to take a few minutes to reflect on my learnings for the day and jot down any ideas for improving our patrons’ experience at the library. As I walk out the doors of the library, I always feel an immense sense of pride and fulfilment for being part of a family that brings rich and vibrant learning experiences to the community!
Phoo Myet Che, Pearl: Carving a path as a creative practitioner
Pearl worked freelance on a variety of arts projects while seeking her career path after graduation. Inspired by Rediscover: Telok Ayer and with a desire to learn more about socially engaged arts practices, she applied for a mentorship programme with arts centre Objectifs and the Stories that Matter workshop in 2020, which looked at critical issues and trends in non-fiction visual storytelling.
Seeing herself as a mediator of conversations, Pearl is currently involved in multiple collaborative projects, including Hotpot Talk, for which she is working alongside artist Alecia Neo on a zine that documents translated recipes from migrant workers in Singapore.
Pearl shared a day in her life while she was participating in an artist residency with independent arts incubator dblspace at Peninsula Shopping Centre, investigating the mall as a gathering site for Burmese migrant workers.
7:00am My alarm goes off. It’s time to wake up and get to work, even if my bed seems extraordinarily comfortable.
9:00am I walk briskly from the MRT station to my office, where I work as a grants project officer at the National Heritage Board.
12:00pm I grab a quick lunch and invite a friend over to dblspce, where I am currently an artist in residence. I share the space with two other artists, Syahrul and Kar-men. Coincidentally, we all share an interest in archives and archiving. I researched narratives and stories that emerged from Peninsula Plaza by digging through newspaper archives and oral history interviews, while Syahrul and Kar-men interviewed shopkeepers at Peninsula Shopping Centre. Recently, we set up a green screen photobooth where we got shop tenants and visitors at Peninsula Shopping Centre as well as friends to pose in front of the screen to be transported into a fantasy world.
1:30pm I head back to my office and work away on my laptop. Right now, I am working on revamping the grants website, as well as updating and managing the registry of grant projects.
6:30pm Done with work! I speed walk to Sunshine Plaza to collect a test print.
7:00pm I head back to dblspce. As it is our last day of residency, lots of friends have come over to hang out. During our residency, we befriended Uncle Rego, a busker who usually hangs around St Andrew‘s Cathedral, so he came to the space to chill out and sing some tunes. The energy is really amazing.
11:00pm Deinstallation time! I peel off all the objects and articles pasted on the wall. We pack up and repaint the wall to reinstate the space.
12:30am We are done for the night. I head back to sleep, ready to do it all over again tomorrow.
'What happens after art school?' is an ongoing series that follows our alumni's work/life after LASALLE. Other instalments:
#1: Miso Choi on how LASALLE set her on the path to Harvard
#2: Eunice Khoo on production managing Marvel films
#3: Nikhil Amarnani on starting his own recording studio
#4: Tan Wei Xiang on taking the time to build your portfolio
#5: Kiat Tan Wei Jie on not stressing over the destination
#6: Felicia Toh on breaking into a competitive industry