Arts & Heritage
Revamped Stamford Arts Centre dedicated to traditional arts
Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at Opening Celebrations of Stamford Arts Centre
05 April 2019
Professor Chan Heng Chee, Chairman, National Arts Council,
Mrs Rosa Daniel, Deputy Secretary (Culture) for MCCY and CEO of NAC,
Artists and Friends of the Arts Community,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- Good evening! It is my pleasure to join you at the opening celebration of the revamped Stamford Arts Centre this evening.
Importance of our traditional arts
- Singapore has a vibrant traditional arts scene with over 100 active arts groups, and more than 1,400 activities and performances held each year. Our traditional arts are made up of deeply-rooted cultural and artistic expressions linked to civilisations from where our ancestors came. It allows us to understand our roots better through tracing them to the lands of our forefathers. However, it has evolved over time through local creations and interactions between the diverse communities we have here. Elements of shared heritage are emerging which energise the traditional arts and enable Singaporeans of different ethnicities to appreciate them better.
- The Government recognises the importance of our traditional arts, and has been supporting its growth over the years. Our SG Arts Plan outlines several broad strategies that reflect this commitment. First, we will support our traditional arts in capability and content development. Second, we want to help our traditional arts broaden its outreach and expand its audience base. Let me share some of the initiatives which aim to achieve these outcomes.
- It is a priority for us to provide opportunities for our traditional arts practitioners (Practitioners) to strengthen their capabilities and pursue artistic excellence. The Malay Music Enrichment Course, and National Indian and Chinese Music Competitions, are some of the platforms supported by the National Arts Council (NAC), which allow them to hone their artistic techniques and practice.
- In-depth research and documentation also helps Practitioners deepen and pass on their knowledge to the younger generation. The Traditional Arts Repository digital archiving project, introduced by NAC in 2017 in collaboration with the National Library Board, is one such example. The project supports our traditional arts groups in documenting and digitising their materials, scores, scripts etc. in order to safeguard our artistic legacy.
- In addition, NAC encourages collaborations between traditional arts groups to foster new ideas and content. The Stamford Arts Centre can play a pivotal role here. Its location in the heart of the Waterloo Street Arts Belt gives the Centre a close proximity to the many arts centres, institutions and arts schools in the area. By revamping it and dedicating it to traditional arts, the Centre will provide the groups with easy access to these rich resources, as well as opportunities to collaborate with arts groups in the neighbourhood. The Centre will offer residencies in traditional arts which will support the incubation of new creations and exchanges. It is my hope that this will inspire our traditional arts groups to create even more engaging works that bring to life the creative energy and shared experiences within the precinct.
- Like all art forms, it is important to have a healthy audience and supporter base for our traditional art forms. NAC will help traditional arts groups broaden their outreach to our youths, and ensure that our traditional art practices remain relevant to the younger generation.
- NAC has developed the Traditional Arts Taster Programme to introduce Singapore’s traditional art forms and folk legends to children aged 4 to 6 years old. Since 2016, stories such as Badang and the Stone, Story of Chang Er and Tales of Sang Kancil, have been presented through theatrical performances. Infused with traditional music, dance and storytelling elements, these stories have been told to more than 2,700 pre-school children.
- There have also been a number of ground-up efforts to present interdisciplinary works with a traditional arts focus in recent years. These play an important role in expanding the audience base to reach new segments. One example is ‘Lest We Forget’, a Chinese Dance production by Dance Ensemble Singapore, which brought together artists from different disciplines, ethnicities and backgrounds to celebrate our shared Nanyang heritage. They worked with musician Dayn Ng who composed and arranged the music, as well as Malay dancers from Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts. Such collaborations provide valuable opportunities for cross-learning and sharing of different music and dance genres.
- Siong Leng Musical Association, which is one of the tenants of Stamford Arts Centre, has also taken new directions to bring Nanyin Music closer to Singapore’s multicultural audiences. One of Siong Leng’s iconic works, ‘Soul Journey’, uses a combination of Chinese instruments, cello, Indian tabla and vocals to create a unique sound that blends the traditional with the new. The group also ensures that it used modernised sets, costumes, lighting and multimedia elements to enhance its performances, and made them appealing to younger audiences.
- This brings me to my final point. In today’s digital age, we should leverage advances in technology to reach new audiences and transform the audience experience. To this end, the Stamford Arts Centre has introduced two new digital features. First is the Augmented Reality Walking Trail, which will enable visitors to the Centre to learn more about its history, features and artists. Second is the Chinese Opera Stage Virtual Reality co-developed with local Chinese Opera company Tok Tok Chiang, which aims to allow audiences to immerse themselves in Chinese opera and learn more about the genre. I encourage you to experience both these initiatives.
- Before I conclude, I would like to express my appreciation to all our arts groups and artists here today. Thank you for safeguarding and promoting our traditional arts. This showcases the richness of Singapore’s multi-ethnic culture, and reflects our journey from a migrant society to a new nation with our common multi-cultural identity. MCCY and NAC look forward to continuing our close working relationship with all of you. Together, we will continue to develop our traditional arts landscape, and keep it alive and relevant through the years.
- On that note, it gives me great pleasure to officially launch the opening celebrations of Stamford Arts Centre! Thank you, and I wish you a wonderful evening ahead.
Arts & Heritage