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Date [ 2015-08-20, 05:21 ]

The island pushes towards turning Penang into a cultural centre.

(Kuala Lumpur =Koreanpress) Liew Lai Keen = The state government of Penang has decided to turn the old abandoned Sia Boey Market in the heart of George Town into an art centre. This is one of its strategies to turn Penang into a world class centre of the arts, as well as culture.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had announced that the 1.8ha land, located very near the state administrative offices in Komtar, would be transformed into the Penang Art and Heritage Square. The CM said, “We are not going to follow the original plan which is to turn the site into a commercial-cum-housing project but have opted for a first of its kind art destination in Penang and the northern region.”

Lim being a Penang art executive committee member can certainly assure that the state government will pump in RM100 million on the square. The state government hopes it will be a catalyst for the urban regeneration of George Town and draw artistic talents from all over the country, if not the world.

“The initial plan was worth some RM180 million, with the commercial and housing project estimated a gross development value of RM500 million. “But we will now spend RM100 million to turn the space into an open art hub that we hope will benefit the generations to come. This will now cost us a total of RM600 million, since we are letting go of the RM500 million development,” explained the Chief Minister.

“We believe that to make George Town an international city, we will also need to turn it into a cultural city. We need projects that benefit the larger public and not just churn in profits,” he explained to a press conference in his Komtar office.The square will have an art museum, library, galleries and shops that sell art and craft. It will also have food and beverage outlets and an open park for people to take morning exercises, enjoy an evening stroll or admire the sculptures and other art pieces.

Lim stated,”Penang is actually taking a gamble, as we do not know whether the project will be a success. However the important thing is to try. He said he was positive that in the long run, the square would deliver the thing is, we have to make the effort to improve the lifestyle of our people. Judging from the success of other art centres around the world like Southbank Centre in London. This complex on the south bank of the River Thames is a very popular venue for music, dance and literature. It houses the Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery, and is Europe’s largest arts centre visited by over three million people every year. Hopefully we too can have the same success.”

Plans for the square had not been finalised but the state government had managed a group interested in the arts to invest. Lim revealed they were near to closing the deal and an announcement would be made this month.

Also present at the press conference was Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua, an art lover. He is contributing his ideas for the project while creative director Valentine Willie, is the consultant to the museum sponsor.

Pua strongly felt the project would be able to make Penang the art capital of Malaysia, as it would while rehabilitating the area, also nurture a holistic and comprehensive art culture in the city. He pointed out that, “All famous international cities like New York, London and Shanghai have a strong art culture and art landmarks. The square will be Penang’s art landmark.”

One of the steps towards achieving this will be to invite galleries from Penang, Kuala Lumpur and the region to join the new art space. For anyone interested in art, the square in George Town is where they must go.

Willie reminded,” The square is a project for Penang’s future and necessary in creating for Penang an art space, especially with the success of the George Town Festival.” He continued,” Penang is not new to the art and culture scene because it used to be a cultural hub from the 1930s to the 1950s. Artists from China had come to Penang with their artwork to raise funds for the second Sino-Japanese War. Now Penang can certainly be an art and cultural hub once again.” 


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