2 July 2019: Students and alumni pursue creative passions off-campus, bringing their experiences back to Yale-NUS

By Michelle Lee

A scene from Flamingos, written and performed by Anthea Chua (Class of 2020) and Jirasiri “Numhom” Techalapanarasme (Class of 2019). Image by Ines Toa.

The vibrant arts community within Yale-NUS College allows students to shine, whether in the visual arts, performing arts, or beyond. Some students and alumni also pursue their passion for art outside campus, whether to acquire real-life experience, take time off to focus on art full-time, or tap on external resources and spaces.

Two members of the community, Anthea Julia Chua (Class of 2020) and alumna and Yale-NUS College staff member Julianne Thomson (Class of 2018), share more about their artistic practices off-campus.

Anthea is currently on a semester-long Leave of Absence from the College in order to direct a play for Checkpoint Theatre, a local not-for-profit theatre company, with whom she has worked in the past.

She shared that her 2017 summer internship, co-ordinated by Yale-NUS’ Centre for International and Professional Experience, was what first kick-started her professional relationship with the local theatre company:

“Numhom and I interned with Checkpoint Theatre in the summer of 2017, and we were asked to be Assistant Directors the next year for the play Thick Beats for Good Girls (2018), co-written and directed by Singaporean performance-poet Pooja Nansi and Australian playwright Jessica Bellamy. I’m currently working with them as an Assistant Director again on an upcoming production, Displaced Persons’ Welcome Dinner!” she said.

When asked about her motivations behind taking time off to focus on directing, Anthea cited her love for theatre as an art form as well as the enriching process of working with external theatre practitioners.

“Theatre is about storytelling, and I believe stories move and shape us more than we realise. Working with Checkpoint has given me the chance to be in the rehearsal room with incredibly talented and generous theatremakers. It has taught me about the importance of thoughtful script development and collaborative working practices,” she said.

Anthea believes that her time away from Yale-NUS will only allow her to contribute more to the artistic community upon her return, something that has already been the case even before her Leave of Absence.

“Numhom and I wrote, directed, and performed in a production in Yale-NUS last year, Flamingos. Our script and staging process was intimately collaborative, drawing from the lessons that we learned working with Checkpoint Theatre. The Checkpoint team has also invested a significant amount in our development as young theatremakers, and I hope to pass that on by being a resource for budding theatremakers in the Yale-NUS community,” she added.

Ms Julianne Thomson plans to pursue painting as a full-time career by 2020. Image provided by Julianne Thomson.

A Yale-NUS alumna, Ms Thomson is both a current Dean of Faculty staff member and a painter, with plans to pursue painting as a full-time career by 2020.

When asked to describe her artistic practice, Ms Thomson explained: “I rent a studio space on my own in Bukit Merah where I spend at least 10 hours a week painting. I paint because I find value in life through painting and interacting with art, which I learned as a student at Yale-NUS. I work at my own pace and share informally with other artists and friends.”

Ms Thomson cites her time as an Arts and Humanities major as solidifying her identity as an artist. She singled out the elective Drawing Methods, which she took in her first year under former Yale-NUS Director of Art Mark Joyce, as the beginning of her journey with painting.

“After Drawing Methods, I completed Intro to Painting in my second year, and by then had already decided I was a painter and would work towards becoming a full-time artist after graduation. I loved my final-year capstone project, an exhibition of my paintings – it was the greatest, most enriching, challenging and satisfying experience during my time at Yale-NUS, and perhaps my entire life so far,” she said.

In her current role as a staff member, Ms Thomson’s experience as an artist drives her to push for the increased presence of the arts on campus and the acceptance of art as a form of self-expression. She is part of an effort to bring a full-time artist-in-residence to the College by January 2020.

While she acknowledges that it would be a far-off possibility, Ms Thomson is also thinking of coming back to teach painting at Yale-NUS one day.

“The closest way of bringing my experience to Yale-NUS I can think of is one day coming back to teach painting – but that is a bit too far ahead for me to really consider,” she said.