Mr Terence Ho Wee San: To ask the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth with the extended circuit breaker period, whether the National Arts Council will consider extending support and assistance to the artiste and arts groups until the end of 2020.
Mr Terence Ho Wee San: To ask the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth whether the Ministry will consider downloading direct funding to arts companies to weather the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to grant applications for projects.
Mr Terence Ho Wee San: To ask the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth whether the Ministry can provide a breakdown on how the solidarity budget of $55 million is to be used in the relief and recovery measures for artiste and arts groups.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng:
- The arts and culture community, like many other sectors, has been significantly affected by COVID-19. The Government has introduced support measures under the Unity, Resilience and Solidarity Budgets to protect livelihoods, help businesses overcome immediate challenges, and strengthen economic and social resilience during this period, including the extended Circuit Breaker. Artists and arts groups can tap on these broad-based measures such as the Enhanced Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), SEP Income Relief Scheme (SIRS), and COVID-19 Support Grant. They can also defer income tax payments and mortgage instalments, as well as seek rental relief for commercial or industrial property leases.
- Besides the above generic schemes under the three Budgets, NAC has committed to sustained levels of funding to arts organisations under the Major Company and Seed Grant schemes. To plan ahead for the post-COVID-19 recovery, NAC’s regular project grants, including those for art creation and research, continue to be available. Our practitioners have also given us feedback that they want to undertake meaningful work, rather than receive direct hand-outs.
- The $55 million Arts and Culture Resilience Package (ACRP) announced by Minister Grace Fu on 7 April 2020 will provide additional support to the arts and culture community. ACRP plays a complementary role by supporting our cultural practitioners to develop resilience and position our sector well for the future. The ACRP seeks to protect the arts and culture ecosystem and will provide support and opportunities for our cultural organisations and practitioners until the end of the year, while encouraging the development of longer-term capabilities that will help the community emerge stronger after COVID-19. For example, the Capability Development Scheme for the Arts (CDSA) supports training programmes until 31 December 2020.
- A key component of the ACRP is the Digitalisation Fund. It supports digital commissions, and new works to be showcased at our major festivals such as Silver Arts, Singapore Writers Festival and Singapore Art Week. To date, eight commissions with key partners such as Lianhe Zaobao, Hear65 and VIDDSEE have been lined up in the coming months under the #SGCultureAnywhere campaign.
- Projects have also benefited from the Digital Presentation Grant for the Arts, such as the Jazz Association Singapore’s well-received online concert in celebration of UNESCO International Jazz Day on 30 April 2020, which attracted almost 100,000 viewers locally and abroad. Since applications opened on 14 April 2020, 62 applications have been supported. Overall, the Digitalisation Fund aims to generate over 1,000 opportunities for cultural and related practitioners, including in the post-Circuit Breaker period. The allocation for each area of support under the ACRP will depend on the evolving national situation, as well as the needs and demands of the arts and culture community.
- Another component of the ACRP is the CDSA, which enables our cultural practitioners to access a wide range of subsidised courses, including online programmes, as well as providing income to those who are trainers themselves. Since the CDSA opened on 16 March 2020, 163 training programmes have been supported. I am heartened that many of our experienced artists and cultural practitioners, such as Maestro Yeh Tsung, Chong Tze Chien and Checkpoint Theatre, have stepped forward to share their experience through virtual masterclasses and online training.
- Mr Speaker, the arts and culture can uplift our spirits in these difficult times, provide comfort, and sustain our emotional and physical well-being. The warm response from viewers to online content of past shows by groups such as Pangdemonium and Nine Years Theatre, as well as programmes for children by The Storytelling Centre and Artground, is testament to the power and value of the arts. I urge larger and more established groups with deeper capabilities to help the smaller ones and individual practitioners, and ask that corporations, foundations and members of the public continue supporting the arts.