Let's TOC Issue #7: Aravin from Neighborhood

Let's TOC

In this issue of Let’s TOC, we speak to Aravin from Neighborhood, a curatorial firm that hopes to bring people together through new narratives. He also shares what Neighborhood has in store for us as part of the Singapore Art Week this year!

Welcome to Neighborhood

Founded in 2017, Neighborhood is a curatorial consultancy that puts people at the heart of everything they do. Whether it is learning a skill, getting hands-on to create an object, or simply sharing an experience with a loved one, Neighborhood designed their programmes to bring people together and enrich their lives.

Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Criticism, Communication and Curation from Central Saint Martins in London, Aravin was brimming with ideas he could not wait to bring to life in the art scene. Rather than wait for opportunities to be handed to him, he joined forces with his business partner, Kesavan, to start Neighborhood.

Say hello to the co-founders of Neighborhood: Aravin Sandran (left) and Kesavan Kunasegaran (right). Photography by Shutterwerkz

Focused on bringing artists and designers together with local communities and organisations, Neighborhood is “committed to presenting ambitious and meaningful public art projects, cultural programming and educational activities in Singapore and across the world.”

We believe art matters, artists’ voices are important in shaping society, and public spaces are places for creative expression.

On what sets Neighborhood apart from others, Aravin believes that it is the talent of the team. “Each team member of Neighborhood brings a distinct point of view and aesthetic that informs everything we do,” Aravin added.

As the director of Neighborhood, Aravin leads the team by setting the overall tone and creative direction of a programme. Apart from project management, Aravin and his team get most exhilarated when they are invited to visit artists’ studios and view work-in-progress in-person!

Singaporean artist Ashley Yeo worked with woodworker Louis Kwok to create an intricate paper and oak wood screen for her solo exhibition, titled “Gentle Daylight”.

Memories, one neighbourhood at a time

When asked about the project that left the deepest impression on him, Aravin chose their first public art exhibition in the heartlands of Yishun.

“We wanted to begin our journey by demonstrating our humble commitment to people through a pop-up in an HDB void deck in Yishun,” Aravin reminisced.

As the official programme partner of Singapore Design Week 2018, Neighborhood held a month-long pop-up exhibition “People’s Studio” at the void deck of Blk 844, Yishun St 81.

Titled “People’s Studio”, the team invited promising emerging artists and designers to exhibit and create their works in a makeshift artist studio. The pop-up went viral after CNA covered it as part of Singapore Design Week 2018, allowing high quality talent and artworks to gain visibility in one of Singapore’s most ordinary yet beloved spaces. Through art projects like “People’s Studio”, the public can observe how a normal neighbourhood can be transformed into a design district.

An LED hydroponic installation was presented by Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Diploma in Landscape Design & Horticulture - as an alternative to the traditional gardening along HDB corridors.

As we probed into Neighborhood’s participation in Singapore Art Week 2021, Aravin found it interesting to be launching their most ambitious programme in the midst of  one of the most challenging times all of us are experiencing now. “Creative Unions”, the first mall-wide art activation thus demonstrates the resilience of the arts community, through collaborations between local artists and Funan’s tenants. An imaginative future where art meets retail, Aravin hinted at limited edition artist-designed merchandise, Instagrammable in-store installations, intimate hands-on workshops and many more we can look forward to!

Graphic artist and art director Aida Sa’ad takes over renowned local gelato brand Butterknife Folk’s storefront and menu to rejoice in the little moments of happiness we experience each day.

“My personal favourite would be artist Nur Aida Sa’ad’s take over of local gelato brand Butterknife Folk,” Aravin revealed. Titled “Small Joys”, Aida was propelled by crowd-sourced stories – reimagining little moments of happiness experienced during the COVID-19 situation into a vibrant and bold storefront design and menu.

Named after these stories, Aravin also shared a spoiler with us on some of the gelato flavour names such as “Sunset on AYE”, “Misty Morning at Clementi Forest” and “Moonlight Prata-ta”.

Absence makes the art grow fonder

Aravin recounted on how the pandemic has certainly challenged the art world to find alternative means of creation and exhibition – be it online viewing rooms or producing new works in their homes during quarantine. At the same time, he maintained that Neighborhood would “continue to provide a platform for artists and designers to showcase their works through diverse art programmes”.

We believe art matters, artists’ voices are important in shaping society, and public spaces are places for creative expression.

“A lot of the work that Neighborhood does is in reflection of what the local arts scene is craving for,” Aravin said. He went on to share some of their future plans, including “connecting local talent with creative communities, institutions and audiences in other parts of the world”.

When asked for his advice for aspiring artists and creatives, Aravin told us, “Most of the time, our fears and insecurities are the only things that set us back from success. It might be the fear of failure, the anxiety over judgements we might face from others, or the self-doubt that we might not be good enough.”

To overcome this, his advice was to “find your creative partners and create your own robust support system”. He then went on to elaborate, “This community you surround yourself with should consist of informed and approachable people who are able to see, hear and validate your work with a level of sensitivity. I owe my personal and professional growth to my business partner and dear friend, Kesavan.”

We would like to thank Aravin for taking the time to speak with us while preparing for Singapore Art Week 2021. Open to visitors starting from 22 January to 21 February 2021, go check out Creative Unions at Funan for an eye-opening art-meets-retail experience!


Read our previous issue Let’s TOC Issue with Hazel from BloomBack here!

Sound like your
kind of tribe?

Fill in your deets and we’ll be in touch!