A New Lease of (Co:Creation) Life

Co:Creation Workshop team is moving to a new home this July and we say our goodbyes to our old studio at Pearl’s Hill Terrace. The tiny studio space at Pearl’s Hill Terrace has brought about Co:Creation’s many firsts as a startup.

In this entry that opens the online journal, Co:Founders Tan Peiling and Samantha Tio muse about Co:Creation Workshop’s birth story – how we took the plunge into entrepreneurship from years of being artists and educators, how our “artist’s caps” came in handy for innovation at the time of the pandemic.

Starting Up at the Brink of the Pandemic

In December 2020, just a couple of days before Christmas, we were moving our art-making tools and materials from our homes into our tiny 150 square feet studio at Pearl’s Hill Terrace. We had spent our first year as a startup in the confines of our homes, due to the COVID pandemic, doing what we can to keep Co:Creation Workshop alive. This move spelled a new lease of life for both of us, having tide through the first wave of limitations that the pandemic has brought upon us.

We had started Co:Creation Workshop at the beginning of that year, not knowing what stood right ahead of us. Our first three months as a startup was smooth sailing – we were getting regular bookings for our school art education workshops and we even commenced our first social program with the Children’s Cancer Foundation.

When PM Lee announced the Circuit Breaker in April 2020, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves, and even more so with our new social enterprise. Our physical workshops were being indefinitely postponed, we couldn’t continue meeting our participants in the community workshops that we had already started. Everything went up in the air and so did our business plans. The Co:Creation activities that we had carefully crafted before we started our startup journey had all come to a halt.

Artists are Important for What We Do

From the start of the pandemic, we knew that we were going to be navigating an uncertain world. The coronavirus had upended life and interactions as we knew it. It was time for us as entrepreneurs to hold on tight to our artists’ caps as the anxieties brought about by the pandemic fiercely tried to sweep them away.

Being artists, we let our minds wander so that we can see things differently. This has always stuck with us through the different stages of our lives; whether we were art students, educators in schools, or artists producing artworks. Our decision to come together to launch Co:Creation Workshop came from our desire to grow outside of a typical corporate and business environment, to create a space where we are not bounded by scientific management and the use of KPIs. As artists, we had also wanted to expand our pursuits outside of the structures that the art world presented; where art and commerce can meet in ways that directly benefit all of society. After a long ten-year stint we were disenfranchised by the blatant commercialization of art, tired of the power struggles in the art world, and numbed by bureaucratic ways of working. We wanted to use our minds in ways where we can see our actions directly translate into social good and we want to put our hearts with the people that we truly care about.

“Our decision to come together to launch Co:Creation Workshop came from our desire to grow outside of a typical corporate and business environment”

When we envisioned Co:Creation Workshop, a core aspect of leading the Co:Creation life is in spending time as artists to connect with communities. In our first two years, we had been gathering together our close circle of contemporary artists and art school friends, whose works we continuously admire and are curious about. They are an important aspect of the work that we do because we innovate creative experiences for people from all walks of life. Artists spend a lot of time observing the things around them and getting a sense of what’s going on in the world. We collect information, sift through it to make sense of it. We open up our senses and feelings, allowing them to coalesce around particular themes or discourses, and eventually, an idea will take precedence. These are the reasons why artists are important agents of innovation in schools, teams, brands, and communities.

Ever since the conception of Co:Creation Workshop, we have had the opportunity to create two meaningful projects with artists (“The Creability Movement” & “Time on Our Hands”) as well as several more workshops designed in collaboration with our local contemporaries. The way artists work, especially in the way they work with “process”, has a huge application, not only in social innovation but also in leadership. They add context to the decisions we make in business or the actions that we take as educators. With the added element of care to that picture, the work of artists can make a difference in the world. In many ways, artists create solutions that are not just about them. Their solutions tell us more about the world we live in today, and the meaningful relationships that we can have with each other.

Our Many Firsts at Pearl’s Hill Terrace

We spent a memorable year at Pearl’s Hill Terrace. The place was perfect as Co:Creation’s first home. Once the Police Headquarters, the neo-colonial architecture is rich in history. Today the place is buzzing with creativity and an almost defiant air of being part of what in Singapore’s society considers as “alternative”. We had the coolest neighbours at Pearl’s Hill Terrace and we were surrounded by a community of artists and creative folks, some offering workshops just like we do.

The studio space at Pearl’s Hill brought many firsts for us;we welcomed our first intern as well as our first team members. We started our internship program to offer young artists and creatives to learn the ropes of what it takes to apply their creative skills in art to create unique bonding and learning opportunities for our workshop participants. We have been welcoming students from ITE College Central, Lasalle College of the Arts, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and School of Art Design and Media NTU, where Peiling and Samantha are alumni.

Without a doubt, we enjoyed the experimental vibes of Pearl’s Hill Terrace. But as Co:Creation grew and we expanded our repertoire of workshop offerings, our studio space at Pearl’s Hill Terrace became too small for us. After a very fulfilling and successful run of a transformation project, funded by National Arts Council’s Organisation Transformation Grant, our new studio now houses tools and materials from a myriad of artistic techniques inspired by our favourite local artists. We also now have the gadgets and gears to deliver our art workshops effectively online.

More Space for Experimenting at WCEGA Towers

We have now found our second home to be at WCEGA Towers and Bukit Batok, in a larger 450 square meter space. The moment we moved in, we had instantly hop right into work with experimentation – expanding the possibilities of the Cyanotype workshop with new outcomes and even modifying the process (types of Cyanotype processes experimented with) to produce different aesthetics in the results. We can finally stretch our arms and legs out in our new studio and envision new offerings with our art workshops.

With this new lease of life, we are excited to be inviting friends like you, to come warm up the space and co:create with us. After all, we are in this for the journey and for more stories to tell. Stay tuned to our next journal entry!

Co:Creating with you always

Peiling & Samantha