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The JOURNEY of Inclusivity in Singapore's Art Scene

Oct 01,2023 | JOURNEY

Empowering Through Art: The JOURNEY of Inclusivity in Singapore's Art Scene

In Singapore's diverse art landscape, one initiative stands out for its innovative approach to creativity and inclusivity. JOURNEY, an award-winning brand that curates art prints and pieces for sale in Singapore created by people with intellectual disabilities, goes beyond mere e-commerce; it's a vehicle for transforming lives and shifting perspectives. But how did this remarkable journey begin?

The Birth of TOUCH SpecialCrafts
The genesis of JOURNEY can be traced back to the unwavering efforts of TOUCH Community Services, a not-for-profit charitable organisation in Singapore that aims to improve the lives of those with intellectual disabilities through community services in Singapore. 

One such service is the development of a visual arts programme known as TOUCH SpecialCrafts. Under this programme, intellectually disabled artists created art that were replicated on merchandise such as greeting cards, post-it notes and acrylic keychains that were sold at ad hoc events. Income generated was sporadic and low. 

In 2019, a seed funding grant from the Tote Board Enabling Lives Initiative Fund acted as the catalyst to bring TOUCH SpecialCrafts to greater heights. 

Changing Perceptions: JOURNEY's Vision and Challenges
The mission was crystal clear: to redefine the perception of art produced by individuals with special needs. Instead of relying on empathy-driven purchases, JOURNEY highlighted the aesthetics, top-notch quality and story behind each piece of art. Only later would customers discover that these exquisite designs originated from artists who happen to have intellectual disabilities. 

JOURNEY’s journey was not without its challenges; it took 12 months of careful planning and production before the e-commerce website officially went live in August 2020. However, just four months into preparation, the unexpected obstacle of the COVID-19 pandemic surfaced. The team had to swiftly adapt to the new normal, embracing live streaming as a means to engage with audiences. 

Unseen Triumphs: JOURNEY's Impact 
Beyond the tangible benefits of financial self-sufficiency, JOURNEY has had profound intangible effects on the artists involved. Artists who once shied away from strangers now confidently engage with the public, such as during UOB’s launch of the 42nd Painting of the Year award featuring JOURNEY artists. Caregivers and parents swell with pride as they witness their children's artworks transformed into wearable and shareable pieces, showcased on social media platforms. 

JOURNEY's impact extends far beyond art and paintings for sale. It fosters a sense of belonging, pride, and accomplishment among special needs artists. It challenges societal stereotypes and demonstrates that art knows no boundaries.

In a world where art transcends limitations and empowers individuals, JOURNEY stands as a testament to the power of community service in Singapore, offering individuals with special needs the chance to shine and thrive.