Arty Party at JB Arts Fest

Portraits of Bentutu Rabbit and Country Doll painted
on wall canvas by their creators,
Jamie Handmade and Angel Handbag
For three weekends during the 10th Johor Baru Arts Festival, art enthusiasts and visitors to the festival village at Bukit Timbalan discovered an eclectic showcase of handicrafts and visual art in the Arty Party marketplace.  Open from 4pm to 9pm each Friday to Sunday, the marketplace, set within Johor Baru’s iconic Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim, was a hive of activity as emerging visual artists and creative talents displayed their original handicrafts for sale.  This first collaboration between Arty Party and the JB Arts Fest turned out to be a success in discovering budding talents and encouraging local creativity as well as getting connected with more artists in the city’s art community.

Arty Party organisers, [Left to Right]
Jess Wong, Sofia Cole and Jennifer Neng
Young and old, local and foreign, ordinary folks or dignitaries, they thronged the Arty Party marketplace to browse around the stalls, admire the original creations and bought unique crafts for themselves or as gifts. 

While local artists and crafters presented their individual creations, students of Sekolah Seni Johor Baru or the Johor Baru School of Art also showcased their paintings and handicrafts.  Arty Party also provided the Johor Society of the Deaf with a place to display and sell their handicrafts and will donate part of their total proceeds to the society.

Visual artist, K. N. Ashok, designing his
JBAF t-shirt for Arty Party's Most
Creative T-Shirt Design Competition
Arty Party Johor Baru is the brainchild of three ladies with a passion for the arts.  It all started last year when Sofia Cole, an English lady who has made JB her home, showcased her paintings and handicrafts at the 9th JB Arts Fest, and Jess Wong saw her creations.  Wong, an interior decorator who also dabbles in creating miniature handicrafts from beads, later introduced Cole to Jennifer Neng, who makes handicrafts from felt material.

While each of the three ladies have their own unique crafts, they discovered a great deal in common and recognised the need of a platform for artists to showcase and promote their work to the public.  Using their own resources, they organized several themed arts and crafts events since last December including, Santa’s Last Minute Shopping, Art by the Bay, and Mingle, Chat and Get Inspired.  Whenever they got together to talk about art, they have so much fun that it was like a party and so it was just natural for the group to adopt an identity like Arty Party. 

Arty Party provided members of the Society of
the Deaf with a platform to showcase and
sell their handicrafts and paintings
Recently when Cole was invited to be a judge at a children’s art competition themed, Paint Your Life, at the Kiwanis Careheart Centre, Arty Party arranged a fringe event to showcase local artists’ creations that should interest the parents and visitors.  While part of the proceeds was contributed to Kiwanis Careheart Centre, Cole donated one of her paintings that was sold at a fund-raising auction for RM11,000.  Cole said she was thrilled when the buyer contacted her later to say, “I just love that picture!”
When Arty Party was offered the carpark within Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim for their marketplace during the Arts Fest, they decided to make the space more interesting by putting up floor-to-ceiling walls of canvas where artists and the public were invited to paint.  With brushes and paint readily available to them, visitors did not hesitate to add their artistic contribution to the giant canvas to brighten up the marketplace.  From students to mothers and grandfathers, they all had fun in putting paint on canvas and proved that there is an artist in everyone!

A Japanese tourist, Kyoka, adding a few strokes to
the Community Painting at the Arty Party marketplace
A framed canvas for the Community Painting was also set up on an easel and visitors were invited to contribute a few strokes of the brush to create a better picture.  Tourists visiting Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim and the marketplace also took turns to add their contribution to the Community Painting. 
When patron of the Johor Baru Arts Festival and Member of Parliament for JB, Tan Sri Dato’ Shahrir Abdul Samad visited the Arty Party marketplace, he was happy to paint a little bicycle into the picture!

Patron of the JB Arts Fest and MP of JB, Tan Sri Dato'
Shahrir Abdul Samad with K.N. Ashok
On Oct 5, the final day of 10th JB Arts Fest, Arty Party is teaming up with Eight Lido to raise funds for Noah’s Ark Natural Animal Sanctuary (NANAS), an animal shelter in Pekan Nanas, Johor, in the second Art For Noah’s Ark event held at Eight Lido.  A programme of activities including craft-making workshops is planned throughout the day and at night there will be live entertainment and deejay music. 

“Participating artists and crafters more than doubled this year and visitors can look forward to 30 stalls and entertainment by six emerging musicians and deejays,” said Wong. 

Abdullah Yusof, a retiree who's still passionate about art
Façade of the iconic Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim painted by Jess Wong on part of the wall canvas
With a commitment to discover local talents and introduce new and emerging artists in design, music, food, painting and handcrafts, Arty Party is going forward with more plans for arts and crafts events in and around Johor Baru. 
One of their aspirations is to have an Arts Café where creative people can gather to talk about art over a cuppa, have a permanent place to hold handicraft workshops and display interesting handicrafts.  For more information about Arty Party events, visit

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Streets Johor on 2 October 2013


  1. Great job my friends Jess Wong, Sofia Cole and Jennifer Neng. We are proud of you and appreciate your hard work :) May all your wishes for the arts in Johor come true.

  2. These lovely ladies have made a difference in Johor. Brining their fun arts and crafts events to Johor and helping many people along the way. So proud of you all.