Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报
19 May 2021
Written by Zhang Heyang
Translation by Isabella Meo
28-year-old harpist Laura Peh founded a business last year - a publishing house specialising in art picture books for children - with the belief that art can help cultivate the emotional intelligence and creativity in future generations.
University students Isabella Meo (left) and Erika Solomon (right) are currently interns with Laura Peh (centre), founder of Cinnamon Art Publishing.
In an era of rapid technology advancement and increasing popularity of big data, we often find ourselves caught amidst widespread anxiety. Faced with concerns that machines may replace humans, Laura Peh believes that empathy, imagination and artistic creativity will be the most important soft skills required in the future.
Who is Laura Peh? It is difficult to define her in one label. She is a harpist, and has held solo recitals in Singapore and around Europe; she is also an experienced arts administrator, having worked in top galleries in London and Hong Kong. Today, she is an entrepreneur, dedicated to developing children's imagination and creativity through art education.
In March last year, Laura shifted her career back to Singapore and founded cinnamon art stories. This is not merely a whim during the COVID-19 pandemic, but rather, stems from her years of insights and experience in the art industry, as well as her personal journey with art.
Laura Peh was born in Hong Kong, but moved to Singapore at the age of 7. At 15 years old, she moved to France to study the harp and musical performance, after which, she moved to London to attain her Masters in Art Business.
Her character is not just defined by her experience in different art industries or her outstanding resume, but more importantly, by her passion for the arts and the way it impacts her at a deeper level.
When she was 17 years old, Laura encountered Claude Monet's famous painting Impression, soleil levant, in the Musee Marmottan Monet in Paris. She says: "It was as if a ray of light entered my world, I never felt so free before. At that moment, I realised that music was not the only medium of communicating narrative and emotion; a painting has the same potential of evoking such intense emotions. Each individual is unique in the ways they perceive and admire art.”
Claude Monet: Impression, soleil levant, 1872
(Photo: Anne Chepeau / Radio France)
From that point onwards, Laura also took time out of her music studies to volunteer in children’s education, which allowed her to share her passion and understanding of the arts to an even wider audience. This experience was integral in paving the way for her current passion -integrating a love for the arts through children’s education.
An Artist as an Entrepreneur
The first series was released in January this year, introducing six important painters of the 20th century, including Wu Guanzhong, Nam June Paik, Gustav Klimt and Piet Mondrian. The books are written by Laura and illustrated by Indonesian illustrator Sienny Septibella.
These books are stocked at prominent art institutions, including National Gallery Singapore, Asia Society Hong Kong and Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai, and available at 26 retail points around the world.
Isabella Meo, a second-year student from the Department of Architecture at the National University of Singapore, is currently an intern with cinnamon art stories. She says: "When I first saw these six names, I was surprised. I love how cinnamon art stories sheds light on lesser-known modern artists, I found it very unconventional but extremely fascinating and educational.”
Laura believes that imagination and empathy will be the most important soft skills in the future.
Shaping Empathy in Children
To Laura, cinnamon art stories are more than just storybooks, they are design objects too. To further push for appreciation of the arts, Laura began organising creative workshops catered towards young children in Singapore.
She says: "These artists come from different cultural backgrounds, and I read their stories aloud to the children. Children will then be guided to tell their own stories through pictures in a four-frame storyboard.”
Once a timid child, Laura wishes to give children a safe space to unleash their imagination, without being scared of judgemental remarks or disapproval. Laura believes that painting, drawing and verbal communication allow a child to easily express their creative potential. This unique approach not only gives children the chance to develop a passion for the arts, but also allows them to develop an empathetic and perceptive personality.
As the summer university holidays approach, Isabella Meo and Erika Solomon, the latter a student at Singapore Management University, have joined Laura's team as interns, to assist in the creative workshops.
Isabella says: "I am very grateful that my parents introduced music and art to me at a very young age, however I do understand that not all families have the means or resources to do so. I appreciate cinnamon art stories for giving children the chance to explore the world of arts, from the comforts of their own home.”
Laura says: "I've always had an entrepreneurial dream. If it is just to make money, art trading may be a more efficient route. But my ideal job should be able to influence others, and shape the future."
Due to the tightening of COVID-19 restrictions, cinnamon art stories will be holding three online creative sessions - haiku writing, art activities and Create-a-Story! Interested readers can find more information at www.cinnamonartstories.com.