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Towards a Vibrant and Sustainable Creative Economy for the Arts

Response by Minister of State for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, Low Yen Ling, to Adjournment Motion on “Towards A Vibrant And Sustainable Creative Economy For The Arts” by Nominated Member of Parliament Ms Usha Chandradas, for the Parliament Sitting on 22 Nov 2023.

  1. Mr Speaker, Sir, I would like to thank Ms Usha Chandradas for her invaluable suggestions on building a vibrant and sustainable arts and culture sector, and creative economy
  2. And indeed, the arts and culture are critical in fostering a more caring people, a cohesive society and a confident nation. The arts connects our communities to foster our identity as a people and as a nation. And it is this conviction in the role and the value of the arts has remained steadfast in the various masterplans that the Government has rolled out since the 1980s.
  3. I shared with Members in this House in October 2020 that these plans have built a foundation for our nation's development and continued growth. We strive to do more as our operating environment and our arts landscape evolve. The recently launched Our SG Arts Plan 2023 to 2027 that Ms Usha mentioned earlier, has this in mind as we seek to bring our flourishing arts sector to the next level.
  4. We have made significant shifts in how we support the arts, expanding from traditional forms to a more diverse and inclusive approach that embraces different artistic expressions. So, on that note, I would like to highlight four areas. Ms Usha Chandradas highlighted four suggestions. I would like to highlight four areas that chart the progress of these efforts that I talked about earlier.
  5. Capability Development

  6. Firstly, on capability development – we are building a dynamic and talented arts workforce to support a strong and vibrant arts sector. As nearly one-third of the arts workforce is self-employed, we have ramped up our support to enhance career pathways and progression of self-employed persons, in short, SEPs. With structured assistance, SEPs can better navigate their career path and acquire resilience, work experience and skills.
  7. Just as supporting capability development in artistic excellence is always a priority, supporting the holistic growth of our arts practitioners is also critical. Four years ago, in 2019, we launched the Arts Resource Hub (ARH), after very extensive consultations with our arts and culture practitioners. This ARH aims to help independent arts practitioners unlock new opportunities that Ms Usha Chandradas cited, access resources like wellness and welfare. We have also provided our arts SEPs with resources, such as talks on copyright, financial literacy, information on personal branding and well-being, as well as access to co-working spaces for sustainability practices.
  8. More than 2,800 arts SEPs have already subscribed to ARH to benefit from its spaces and programmes. We will continue to review ARH to ensure that it serves the evolving needs of the arts SEPs. In fact, this follows from my engagement session in February this year with a group of SEPs from the arts sector to discuss how we can better support them and how we can work together to co-curate solutions together. Sir, I want to assure Ms Usha Chandradas that ongoing feedback from the wider arts community, including those raised by Ms Chandradas, will certainly help us to finetune the ARH to further enhance the capabilities of our arts practitioners.
  9. Most recently, in September 2023, the NAC and SkillsFuture Singapore developed the Skills Framework for the Arts. This identifies the occupations, job roles, training programmes, as well as existing and emerging skills that are required in arts education as well as technical theatre and production sectors.
  10. Looking ahead, I want to assure Ms Chandradas that the Government will certainly continue to support arts SEPs, strengthening their continuous education and training while providing different pathways for skills development and acquisition. Because by fostering a culture of lifelong learning and providing avenues for skills enhancement, we seek to empower our arts professionals to navigate their career landscape successfully.
  11. Arts and Culture Infrastructure

  12. Second, we are continuing to expand our arts infrastructure beyond presentation purposes, diversifying the spaces for artists and creatives to incubate, to experiment and to collaborate.
  13. Twenty years after we opened Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, we continue adding to Singapore's portfolio of first-rate performance and presentation spaces. In fact, just last year, we inaugurated the Singtel Waterfront Theatre, a state-of-the-art venue with the grandeur and the technical capabilities to showcase our artists' talents on an international scale. We also added the Singapore Art Museum at Tanjong Pagar Distripark (TPD) to the growing pool of arts spaces. This former industrial warehouse has really become a unique location for art showcases. Because of the voluminous gallery spaces accorded at TPD for the Singapore Biennale 2022, SAM was able to commission Singaporean artist Ong Kian Peng to develop an immersive audio-visual piece titled "The Viscous Sea", where viewers could experience the impact of climate change as they walk around the large-scale installation. I think this is really quite precious in Singapore.
  14. Today, under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Community/Sports Facilities Scheme, we have seven co-located arts groups in commercial spaces. NAC also has a mix of small and medium-sized venues for both creation and presentation purposes. We also look forward to the development of Kampong Java and, Ms Chandradas mentioned earlier, 45 Armenian Street, two work-in-progress spaces identified for artistic incubation, multidisciplinary experimentation and interdisciplinary collaboration. These new spaces are really part of our ongoing efforts to provide artists and audiences with various facilities and exciting opportunities to engage with the arts. They complement and they enhance our arts scene, providing vibrant avenues and adding attractive aesthetics to our city.
  15. Funding Support

  16. Third, Ms Chandradas talked about funding. I must also talk about that. To boost the development of our creative economy, we have injected strategic funds and rolled out targeted initiatives to support the growth of our arts and culture sector. Ms Chandradas will remember the Arts and Culture Strategic Review in 2013, the Cultural Matching Fund in 2014. In fact, its $150 million top-up just last year, as well as the Arts and Culture Resilience Package in 2020 have all been instrumental in fortifying our arts and culture sector.
  17. I want to assure Ms Chandradas and the House that MCCY and NAC will not let up our efforts in supporting the development of our arts practitioners and organisations. From 2019 to 2023, NAC supported the sector with nearly $100 million in various grant support. Looking ahead, we will find opportunities to support areas that reap synergies across the cultural as well as the creative sectors, strengthening the value proposition for the arts within the broader creative economy.
  18. Beyond the Government grants, private sector giving and participation are, indeed, vital for a vibrant arts and culture landscape. We will continue to foster a breadth of private-sector arts partnerships to nurture a culture of giving to the arts. In 2021, we introduced the stART fund to catalyse support for developing organisational capabilities and programmes in smaller arts organisations. Since then, more than $1 million from the private sector has been disbursed to 31 arts organisations. Because of these generous contributions, we can support efforts, such as Superhero Me's "One-on-One Mentorship to Market" programme. This is a programme that really tugs at the heartstring of a lot of people, because this fosters inclusion through the arts by partnering children with special needs with other children.
  19. The stART fund alleviated the concerns of Superhero Me organisers regarding start-up costs, allowing them to quickly focus on enabling children with special needs to participate in artmaking and showcasing their works at the 2022 Singapore Writers Festival.
  20. Audience Development

  21. Last but not least, Ms Chandradas has highlighted that our creative economy needs audiences to thrive. So, it is really about audience development.
  22. Since the pandemic, new dynamics have emerged to reshape the relationship between artists and their audiences, for example, the change in consumption patterns from in-person attendance to hybrid platforms. To address this evolving landscape, it is crucial to understand the changes in audience preferences to regain audiences and to grow paying audiences. In this regard, we agree with Ms Chandradas' observation that there is a need to educate and, in fact, cultivate our audience.
  23. To that end, we recently launched the beta version of I hope Ms Chandradas has checked it out. This is a one-stop digital platform aggregating arts and culture content in Singapore. It aims to drive audience attendance and enhance the accessibility of Singapore's arts and culture. This initiative is led by NAC, with the support of the National Heritage Board, the Arts House Limited, National Gallery Singapore and Esplanade.
  24. More than 700 events from the arts community since September have enjoyed a boost in marketing since its launch and we are working to increase its local as well as international reach in the coming months through strategic partnerships. For example, Members of the House can look forward to catching up on our arts news when you take the SMRT trains or when you catch a Singapore Airlines flight. It is on them. And we want to thank all our partners for playing a role in broadening the reach of the arts in and beyond Singapore.
  25. So, Mr Speaker, Sir, we are standing on a solid foundation to develop our creative economy to greater heights.
  26. Conclusion

  27. Our arts and culture landscape has really come a long way. We will continue to strive and make strides to develop our arts workforce, create diversified spaces for the arts, provide funding support and grow discerning audiences. Together with my colleagues at MCCY and NAC, we are committed to ensuring that the arts thrive and blossom in Singapore. I want to work with Ms Chandradas and the sector on this.
  28. Through the power of the arts, we can bring our people together. We can inspire creativity and innovation and enrich lives. Together, let us grow a vibrant arts and culture ecosystem to enhance our creative economy, deepen our shared identity and make Singapore a distinctive city and home we love.
Last updated on 30 November 2023