Last weekend I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival at the KL Performing Art Centre (klpac). This “Malaysian Community Project” saw hundreds of artists invade the grounds of klpac, from contemporary to traditional, mainstream to experimental, something from everyone.
One of the highlights was the traditional showcase (Kuda Kepang from Johor, the Wayang Kulit and Mak Yong from Kelantan and the Sumazau from Sabah), all happening under a bamboo and palm tree hut sharing the same grounds as an open mic stage and an open-air stage for spoken words, dance. A great mix of old and new.
The energy was great and what stroke me was the level of participation from the audience, as if they had made this festival and the venue theirs! You should have seen the drum workshops pulling people of all ages, each with an instrument in hands getting that beat up and up.
So my question is how can we bring this level of engagement with the arts and the local creativity in our theme parks as a way to integrate our communities. Because most of us are equally committed to entertaining people and to supporting our local communities.
First thing first, any initiative needs to be relevant. This means working with the right people who live and breathe arts and creativity and who work with communities. This means being generous and inclusive. Your visitors need to feel the authenticity of the initiative.
What format works best? Of course the easiest is to have a special event or festival as it allows to bring in specialist people from the outside to help for a limited period of time only. If partners or sponsors are involved it is also easier to get their attention and support for an event rather that all year long.
However I believe that we can find a way of bringing local arts and creativity in a more permanent manner by integrating it in the product. If your theme park is targeting GenY then you may look at arts that matter to them such as music, performance, video games, etc and work with the local creative scene on projects to integrate them in the park. A few examples:
- your park can be a great talent discovery stage for music bands
- you can work with local developers on video games for your visitors
- you can work with local talents to develop your shows, parades, etc
And why should you look at these initiatives? If well executed these initiatives will inspire your visitors and you will connect with them in new and deeper ways; they will feel included and will become your best supporters. Also this is a way to improve people’s lives by making them realize a passion and aspire to the greater things arts bring to this world.
So go check-out the amazing arts festivals happening near you and feel the inspiration!