The Cultural Centre: A Short History and an Overview
The beginning of the Cultural Centre can be traced back to the establishment of the Culture Unit in 1970, then under the Office of Public Affairs, University of Malaya. In 1975, the Culture Unit was renamed the Cultural Centre, reporting directly to the Chancellery of the university. We were tasked with the responsibility of organising arts and cultural activities for both the campus community as well as the wider public.
Our first director was the late Syed Ahmad Jamal (1979 – 1983), who was not only recognised as a National Artist but was also subsequently appointed as the Director of the National Art Gallery from 1983 – 1991. The Cultural Centre played an active role in organising numerous activities, and the lively campus environment of the University of Malaya became an important hub for Kuala Lumpur's thriving art scene.
By 1997, the Cultural Centre expanded its role into teaching and research. Two academic programmes were offered initially, a degree in Bachelor of Perfoming Arts (with Honours) with a major in either Drama or Music. By the year 2000, the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education approved our postgraduate programmes. We were then able to offer courses leading to a Masters degree in two areas of specialisation, the performing arts and visual arts.
Shortly after, the Public Service Department began recognising our Bachelor degree qualifications for the purpose of appointment to public service. In 2002, we began offering Doctoral Degrees in these fields of study. The MA in Visual Arts program began its first teaching semester in 2003, initiated by renowned artist, curator and art historian, the late Redza Piyadasa. Finally, we began offering a Bachelor Degree of Performing Arts with a dance major in 2005.
A large number of graduates from the Cultural Centre has since carved successful careers for themselves in both private sectors and government agencies such as the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage, National Academy of Arts and Heritage, Department of Culture, Arts and Heritage of various State Agencies, Ministry of Education. There are also graduates who have become free-lance cultural workers; as actors, independent curators, dancers, independent researchers, professional musicians, or private art/music teachers.
A number of graduates continued with their higher education degree and upon graduation are currently working as lecturers in both private and public universities/colleges. Today, the Cultural Centre is headed by a Director who is assisted by two Deputy Director for Academic Affairs and a Senior Cultural Officer for Arts and Development.