An “Inkuehdible” Art Mission

“You’re simply ‘inkuehdible’”, says a card with two smiling pieces of kueh lapis.

Next to it, another displays an affectionate bean sprouts couple shyly declaring, “We belong TAU-GEYther”.

These cards, and colourful rows of pins, tote bags and other gift items bearing witty puns and adorable graphics, are designed and produced by Junior Art Lab. Interestingly, the graphics were created with Microsoft Powerpoint, a software more often associated with making presentations.

Junior Art Lab’s founder Aminur Rasyid explained, “Powerpoint is an accessible software used commonly at home and in schools. I picked up the drawing technique from my sister who’s an art teacher. It’s a good starting point for digital drawing using geometric shapes, even for one who can’t draw.”

Bringing art lessons to vulnerable groups

The 30-year-old started the centre in 2017 to share his love of creating art using this software. Since then, Junior Art Lab has evolved into a social enterprise bringing art lessons to disadvantaged groups.

The centre runs classes for children and youths from lower income families or those with disabilities. With sponsorships from organisations and well-wishers, Aminur reaches out to social service agencies such as Thye Hua Kwan, Morning Star Community Services and Catch Plus to conduct art classes for their beneficiaries. In 2019, about 200 children attended these fun and engaging classes, which were also intended to improve their digital literacy.

“Some of our students continued to design after the classes and tagged us on social media. A few told us they want to become designers when they grow up. It’s really heartening,” he shared.

Teaching trainees income-generating skills

For a select few, the dream of becoming a designer is not far off.

Sayfullah, a teenager born with cerebral palsy, has been taking private lessons from Aminur in the past two years. A few of Sayfullah’s designs have found their way into merchandises at Junior Art Lab, from which he earns royalties.

The centre also started a pilot programme in 2019 to train four adult learners with disabilities. Aminur plans to incorporate artwork from these trainees into merchandises or hire a couple of them on a part-time basis to create content and designs at his centre.

“It’s easy to overlook the talents of people with disabilities when they are in fact full of potential. Our aim is to turn their creativity into an employable or income-generating skill. But we need to raise public awareness and find income opportunities for them,” he said.

He is working on profiling these special designers and expanding sales channels for the products. Besides selling the merchandises at his centre, through websites and at pop-up stores, his bigger plan is to bring them to places of interest, gift shops or more online platforms.

It is a challenging but fulfilling journey for the social entrepreneur. To Aminur, it has become his calling.

"When we hear the struggles our students face, it really motivates us to think of ways to support them. Junior Art Lab started as a personal passion. Now we are not just creating art, but are helping others and changing lives.”

Keen to help?

To support Junior Art Lab or join their art classes, contact them at hello@juniorartlab.sg or 9722 2935.

To buy their creative merchandises, visit the centre at 20 Lengkok Bahru #01-11, Enabling Village, Singapore 159053 or purchase them online at Artably.

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