Shortcuts to a city’s art scene

Shortcuts to a city’s art scene

You’ve just moved to a new city and you want a career in the arts but where do you start? Teacher and artist Lusy Koror shares some advice.

By Lusy Koror

Whether you are established elsewhere or just beginning your creative path in a new place, here are a few useful tips for you to integrate well into the local art scene.


Firstly, subscribe to everything you can. I have a second email address for subscriptions so that my private inbox doesn’t get flooded with spam. Then I can cherry pick all the things I want from there.

Penang Free Sheet is a good place to start looking for ways to meet people. There are also great events happening soon with George Town Heritage Celebrations and George Town Festival.

First contact

Once you subscribe then you can start meeting people. The best way, I find, to do that is at a workshop or a guided tour. A gathering in a gallery can be isolating and difficult to break through unless you’re ultra confident. If you’re in a workshop situation then you instantly have a conversation starter like, “Oh wow, your work is really cool!”.

Do a few freebies (but not a lot)

When someone says to you it is good exposure to do something for free, just remember that humans can die of exposure. However, when you’re in a new place it can be a useful tool for connecting yourself to other people. Perhaps, don’t see it as a freebie, see it as volunteering for your new community and maybe find a way that it can make a positive impact on either your own life or someone else’s. George Town Festival is currently recruiting volunteers and this is a great way for you to meet people interested in the arts.

Don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions

It is important to note that people are paid differently everywhere in the world and as such you must price your skills according to the local market. According to the 2017 Salaries & Wages Survey Report released by the Department of Statistics Malaysia, the average monthly salary of an employee is RM2880, with a considerable difference between wages in urban and rural areas.

If you don’t take this into consideration you are at risk of overpricing which can isolate your audience.

It may seem like bad form to ask people how much they are paid for certain jobs but it is essential market research for anyone new.

Similarly, under-pricing can be equally dangerous as you can undermine those who are already struggling to make a living. This can cause long-term damage to how your clients and competitors value you.

If the mountain won’t come to you, then make a new mountain yourself

When struggling to achieve something important, it can feel like a never-ending task. If you find that there are opportunities lacking, then see it as a chance to create them for yourself instead.

I networked like crazy online, posting on social media and forums to find people to help me. Making my own opportunities made it easier to meet people, as I asked them to join me and my vision. During my first few months in Penang, I managed to organise several large art events which cost me next to nothing to run and had hundreds of people attend. From there I met many people and gained a good reputation.

Running your own events may not be your thing, but there are always ways to get yourself out there, like approaching cafes to exhibit your artwork or to host your performances.

Places like Viva Victoria and Gusto Café have a great stage and are very supportive of all arts while Ome by Spacebar Coffee has a small exhibition space upstairs. Hin Bus Depot has a wonderful market every Sunday that is great for networking and selling, and the cost of a stall is very reasonable. For a bigger platform, try sending in your proposal to George Town Festival, which helps many artists gain international exposure every year.

Whatever your art form, go out there and show it, wherever you can get it seen. Be patient and positive and soon it will feel like you’ve always been there.

Lusy Koror is a teacher, artist, writer, comedienne, and curator for LAH Studios. A British Bermudian, she first came to Penang 6 years ago and has never really left since.