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New Visiting Research Fellow from Singapore’s LASALLE College of the Arts

Venka Purushothaman

Fellowship celebrates La Salle Irish brother who founded arts school

The Trinity Long Room Hub welcomes Visiting Research Fellow Venka Purushothaman who joins the Institute from the LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore.

Venka Purushothaman is Vice-President (Academic) and Provost at LASALLE College of the Arts, a leading arts school in Asia pacific, and founded by Irish De La Salle brother, Joseph McNally.

‘Brother Joseph McNally came to Singapore in the 1930s as part of the De La Salle order as an educator in Singapore. He set up an arts school upon his retirement, and that’s how the Singapore-Irish connection really started. In the early days, he used to ship in Irish bog wood to sculpt,’ said Mr Purushothaman.

‘He believed that arts transform the human individual, and we should be able to really ensure that the arts forms the critical call to the soul of a nation’, explained Mr Purushothaman.

The College is now ‘one of the leading arts schools in contemporary practice, and primarily produces artists for the whole of south East Asia.’

Mr Purushothaman is also keen to highlight the contribution of the arts and arts schools to the creative industries in South East Asia, and countries like Singapore.

‘Singapore is very much a STEM oriented society – Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It’s world renowned for that kind of educational perspective and it gets ranked very highly for that. The same drive is now there for the arts, albeit it came a bit later - it was in the 90s when it started to really prime itself up. It was then that there was a major investment in arts as part of the creative industries.’

‘On any good day in a given year,’ he said, ‘you would have close to 4,000 exhibitions or performances, so it’s a major engine.’

Mr Purushothaman is the first recipient of the McNally Fellowship, an award established in 2015 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the founding of LASALLE College of the Arts, by Brother Joseph McNally, acknowledging his legacy in art and education in Singapore.

Established by the gift of the Singapore Ireland Fund, the fellowship seeks to maintain and explore links with the arts and culture of Ireland that has shaped much of Singapore’s educational principles.

As part of the Fellowship, Mr Purushothaman will be Visiting Research Fellow at the Trinity Long Room Hub at Trinity College Dublin in 2017, focusing on his current research project on pedagogies in art school environments.

‘Coming from the arts school environment, I’m very interested in the kind of education that arts school environments produce; unlike your standard liberal arts university or a science and engineering university, the arts school environment does not deal with the kind of hierarchy of structures -  we have a horizontal way of looking at communities of practice and ideas, and primarily creating an environment for artists to develop their own language and vocabulary to ultimately see the world in a particular way.’

Mr Purushothaman will be based in the Trinity Long Room Hub until the 16th of April 2017.

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Venka Purushothaman has a distinguished career in arts higher education and cultural and creative industries in Asia.
As Provost of LASALLE College of the Arts Singapore, he has boldly led significant transformation in LASALLE and introduced numerous path-breaking undergraduate and postgraduate programmes to support the cultural and creative industries in Asia. This includes steering the development of South East Asia’s first MA in Arts Pedagogy and Practice to enable artists working in the educational sector to be skilled in teaching and assessment principles; and develop new interdisciplinary models of teaching artistic expression in the classroom.


Contact: Aoife King, Communications Officer | Trinity Long Room Hub | aoife.king@tcd.ie | 01 896 3895