Art is for everyone, the Cendana way

Contributing to the sustainability of the arts and culture sector, the agency wants to make art more accessible, especially to young Malaysians


LAST year, when the “Leonardo Opera Omnia” exhibition was brought to the National Art Gallery Kuala Lumpur, the more cynical “artistic crowd” did not really think it would get that much attention.

They were proven wrong. The exhibition managed to attract a phenomenal number of visitors from all over Malaysia. The main reason? Well, the exhibition was viewed as a dream for those who could not afford to see Leonardo da Vinci’s famous artworks such as “The Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper” — not even the reproduced versions.

Never before had the National Art Gallery received an influx of visitors. Even on the first day of the exhibition, more than 1000 visitors thronged the galleries, marvelling at the digital representation of da Vinci’s greatest works.

For city dwellers, enjoying such exhibitions would not be much of a hassle. However, there are still art enthusiasts who are not as fortunate due to their geographical challenges.

Thanks to the Cultural Economy Development Agency (Cendana), there would be equal opportunities for all to enjoy the same privilege, especially among primary school children from suburban and rural areas.

The agency is also looking at ways to include school children from the bottom 40% group, Chinese and Tamil public primary schools, as well as Orang Asli and special needs institutions to be part of the #BASKL Arts Excursion Programme (AEX).

Izan Satrina says students are able to experience and learn more about arts through direct exposure during guided visits via the AEX programme

“For us, to be able to contribute to the sustainability of the arts and culture sector, it is important to make art more accessible to young Malaysians,” Cendana founding CEO Izan Satrina Mohd Sallehuddin told The Malaysian Reserve.

Via AEX, she said students are able to experience and learn more about arts through direct exposure during guided visits to visual arts exhibitions or live performances.

On June 25 last year, the first cycle of AEX was opened for applications and more than 2,000 students from 25 primary schools in the Klang Valley were selected for the programme.

The second cycle will be opened between Feb 4 and March 13 this year. Public primary schools who are interested to undertake the programme may apply via Cendana’s website at

Izan Satrina said each school has been allocated up to RM5,000 for the AEX, and the amount covers bus return transfer within 50km from the school, as well as food and beverages for the students and teachers of up to 40pax per bus. The package also covers their travel insurance.

According to Izan Satrina, the Cendana team was not sure if the project would get the right response the first time around.

“The ones that applied, if I’m not mistaken, were 29 schools, of which 25 were approved. We hope the response will improve this year, with the help of teachers who could start applying for this programme,” she said.

The Shah Alam Gallery & National Museum are Top Picks
As part of AEX, Cendana recently hosted 40 participants from SK Sungai Melut to enjoy the works of art at the Shah Alam Gallery.

The 36 Orang Asli children and their four teachers were given a guided tour before they participated in an arts workshop. The students had fun drawing lines on paper and on the glass container provided.

AEX is already operating in several locations such as Bank Negara Malaysia’s Gallery, the Petronas Gallery in Kuala Lumpur and the Shah Alam Gallery.

AEX also ferries students to the National Museum, which seems to be a popular choice for the programme.

“The majority of schools choose the National Museum and Shah Alam Gallery. I’m not too sure why, but I think it’s got something to do with the galleries’ programming, which is suitable for the students. They have an art education officer as well,” Izan Satrina explained.

Getting Aid from Corporates
As it is, Cendana has set aside RM800,000 for its two arts education programmes which are AEX and Artist in School Programme (AISP).

“Right now, we are targeting to involve 13,000 students that we hope to engage this year. But to engage the 13,000 students, we need to raise another RM800,000,” Izan Satrina said.

More than 1000 visitors throng the galleries, marvelling at the digital representation of da Vinci’s greatest works

To meet the target, Cendana would be canvassing assistance from the private sector.

“We all use tax deductions from the government. If you support RM1, you’d get a RM1 tax deduction in return. In the recent Budget 2020, the government already announced a RM1 million tax deduction,” said Izan Satrina.

Last year, during the Budget 2020 announcement, RM5 million has also been allocated to Cendana to support art exhibition organisers and visual art galleries to hold their art displays.

“From our past two years of experience, more than 50% of our grant actually goes to performing arts. Then, there’s 24% for visual arts and 25% for music. So, based on our experience, out of the 24%, most of the funding is given to support visual artists, in terms of their mobility,” she said.

Cendana also gives local artists the opportunity to fund a residency or a fair.

“We have also used the same funding programme to support established artists like Fuad Osman to partake in the Sharjah Biennial.

“The RM5 million fund from the government will also provide more funding for those sort of effort for the visual artists,” Izan Satrina said.

The Artist in School Programme
The AISP aids primary school students to understand the concepts and techniques involved in art. Students are also taught to analyse art forms and figure out how artworks are conceived.

The programme helps enhance the students’ evaluation and creative thinking skills.

AISP will begin its run this year. Cendana has just finalised the first cohort of 16 artists who will be teaching arts in primary schools.

Among them are Mohd Faros Amzas who will teach comic art; Khalid Othman who will teach painting; and Fazleena Hishamuddin who will teach theatre.

Schools are able to select which artists that would suit students’ needs. Courses will be subsidised by Cendana with an amount of RM8,000 per school.

The application for the AISP is currently open until Feb 28 this year.

AEX also ferries students to the National Museum, which seems to be a popular choice for the programme

Artists, who are selected for the programme, have undergone pedagogy training and to ensure the safety of both artists and students, child safety protection training programme has also been incorporated.

“We inserted the child safety protection training programme, because you need to know when dealing with children, you cannot touch them as some may feel uncomfortable.

“We want to be sure that our artists and the children feel safe. That’s why we had to check with the police to see if anyone is on the sex offenders list,” Izan Satrina added.

While AEX is mainly held in the Klang Valley, AISP is also available in the Klang Valley and for schools in Sabah. By this year, the programme would be expanded to Sarawak.

“Sabah was a natural selection for us. I think Sabah and Sarawak are both very organic in terms of the growth in arts. There’s less censorship. People are more together and they are very proud of their arts and culture,” Izan Satrina said.

Currently, the AEX and AISP programmes are only available for primary schools.

Still, there is hope for Cendana to expand its programmes to secondary schools if funding is increased.

After all, if the programmes could reach more schools in each state, one would be ensured that the country’s art and culture scene would thrive even further to nurture more talents that could make Malaysia proud. Maybe someday…