A group of artists with special needs got a pleasant surprise when Vijay Eswaran and Sir Richard Branson of The Virgin Group, together, paid a special visit to the ‘Once Upon a Time’ art exhibition held at Forum The Shopping Mall in Singapore.
An annual art competition organised by the Very Special Arts (VSA) charity, the exhibition features winning and commendable pieces by children and youth with disabilities.
In town for the Formula 1, Vijay Eswaran and Sir Richard took time out of their busy schedules to tour the exhibition and speak to some of the artists who were present.
Magali Finet, Programme Executive, VSA, explained that this was the ninth year the charity has organised the art competition and the theme this year encouraged the participants to revisit the legend of Singapore.
“Through this exhibition, we hope to encourage these children and youths with disabilities to dream and follow their passion. A lot of them are very creative and honing their talent for the arts gives them added confidence and motivation to use this as a source of livelihood,” said Finet.
“For example, some of the works of the older artists can be bought at the exhibition,” she continued.
One such artist was Toh Ah Wat, who is physically disabled and has been painting for three years. She started off doing it as a hobby but as her confidence grew, she started making a living off of selling her paintings.
Vijay Eswaran and Sir Richard were especially enraptured by Toh’s paintings featuring the environment, a subject close to both their hearts.
Surprised by their glowing reviews, Toh said it was the first time people with such influence had seen and praised her paintings.
“Hearing how much Vijay Eswaran and Sir Richard like my work only motivates me to get better at my craft,” said Toh.
“This exhibition is really a testament to the mantra that nothing is impossible. The art pieces I’ve seen today are exceptionally-painted and up to par with any that you would see in art galleries worldwide,” said Vijay Eswaran impressed that these artists do not let their disabilities stand in the way.
“Speaking to some of the artists, their enthusiasm really shines through. They explained their disabilities to us but never used them as an excuse to not pursue their passion. That attitude is something we all should adopt,” he added.
Sir Richard echoed his sentiments.
“People underestimate the value of the arts for people with disabilities. As VSA has proven, it is an excellent form of creative expression for them and provides them with infinite opportunities for personal and professional growth,” he said.
At the end of the hour-long tour, Finet presented her guests with two books authored by VSA artistes.
Vijay Eswaran, Sir Richard and a group of QI directors then adjourned to French restaurant Au Petit Salut, in the stylish Dempsey area, for an intimate lunch.