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Arts & Heritage

Growing a sustainable and vibrant arts scene through philanthropy

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, at the Patron of The Arts Awards 2019

Professor Chan Heng Chee, Chairman, National Arts Council,
Patrons and Supporters,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. Good evening. It is my pleasure to be here this evening to recognise your strong support and generous contributions towards the arts in Singapore.

    Importance of giving to a vibrant and sustainable arts scene

  2. At MCCY and NAC, we value the arts for broadening our perspectives and enriching our lives. Through the arts, we can bring people together, uplift communities, and strengthen our national identity.
    Arts patronage is important to ensure the sustainability of these efforts. It is also a tangible demonstration of the shared ownership of our culture by the public, private and people sectors.
  3. It is encouraging that the arts received $57.4M in cash, sponsorship and in-kind contributions in 2018, especially in this uncertain economic climate. Our arts ecosystem in Singapore has strong qualities that will help us weather challenges that come our way. These include the strong and sustained partnerships forged between arts groups and donors, and our arts organisations’ own efforts and initiatives in fundraising.
  4. In 2018, in-kind contributions to the arts reached an all-time high of $24.5M. Such in-kind contributions include JCDecaux Singapore Pte Ltd’s sponsorship of media spaces at bus shelters to promote local arts events like the Singapore Chinese Orchestra’s concert season. Orchard Turn Developments also provided platforms for local artists like Charmaine Poh to showcase their work at ION Orchard. The value of the in-kind contributions received was almost two times more than 2017 and this highlights how our arts organisations and patrons take an innovative approach to their philanthropic efforts.
  5. The support of arts patrons is an important component of the Government’s efforts in developing a sustainable arts scene, in line with the priorities of Our SG Arts Plan. We have witnessed the impact made by sustained patronage of our long term partners, such as:

    • United Overseas Bank Limited, which has championed art in Singapore and Southeast Asia through its flagship arts competition, the UOB Painting of the Year, and through a wide range of visual arts programmes and outreach initiatives. UOB has also supported visual arts programmes at Pathlight School, Northlight School and Little Arts Academy. These programmes have enabled children with special needs and underprivileged children receive quality arts education, which helps them better integrate into the society.
    • Another long-time patron of the arts, Ms Kris Tan Lay Peng, has helped to nurture the next generation of classical musicians. She has supported the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and the music education of NAFA students through the Kris Foundation Fund Scholarship and NAFA-Kris Foundation Fund Concerto Competition. This has helped bring classical music to more Singaporeans.
    • Paige Parker & Jim Rogers, as well as M1, have supported various productions and festivals by local arts organisations such as the Singapore Symphonic Orchestra, The Necessary Stage, and Wild Rice. Their patronage has encouraged these organisations to strive for artistic excellence in their works.

  6. I am delighted that there are over 100 organisations and individuals receiving tonight’s awards for the first time. To cite just one example, Singapore PR Mr Tsai Eng Rung’s generous donations to his ‘second home’ have supported young visual artists from Meshminds, Home(work) and Unorthodox showcase their work at Singapore Art Week 2019.
  7. Thank you to all our patrons for giving to the arts and supporting our arts and culture scene.

    Growing arts philanthropy in Singapore

  8. In encouraging art philanthropy, our art and cultural groups play an important role. They should understand the interests of their donors and strive to appeal to their interests. They should also assure their donors by demonstrating effective stewardship. Strong governance and prudent spending can provide assurance that donation will be well managed to achieve the intended outcomes.
  9. Our groups are also innovating their fund raising activities. For example, Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) launched a crowdfunding campaign titled “Save our Shakespeare” in 2017, to appeal for support to stage the beloved Shakespeare in the Park. SRT successfully raised $100,000 and was able to stage “Julius Caesar” in 2018. More recently, the Esplanade launched “Ground Up”, a fundraising campaign which encourages members of the public to play a game and raise funds for the new Singtel Waterfront Theatre. The public can choose to donate $10 per plot that they virtually ‘dig up’, and this will be matched dollar-for-dollar by Bowen Enterprises. I encourage our art groups to be adventurous in trying new, creative means to reach out new, wider target segments of donors.
  10. The Government is adopting several initiatives to encourage cultural philanthropy. These range from offering courses in fundraising capability in partnership with LASALLE College of the Arts, to campaigns such as NAC’s “A World Filled with the Arts” programme in 2018. The Cultural Matching Fund launched in 2013 provides dollar-for-dollar matching from the Government for eligible donations to arts and heritage charities, and has been instrumental in encouraging donations for the past six years.  This year, the Government introduced a $200M Bicentennial Community Fund to match cash donations raised by all Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) up to a cap of $400,000. I call on all art IPCs to take full advantage of this Fund and all art lovers to support our arts by giving generously.

    Greater support for smaller and newer groups

  11. Notwithstanding these collective efforts, we recognise that some arts groups, those that are smaller in scale or just starting out, may need more help in their fundraising efforts. Some of these groups may not be as well known, may not have a wide reach, or have yet to reach a scale to put in place the governance structure to assure the donors.
  12. We hope to do more for these nascent arts groups. We want to help them develop capabilities and governance frameworks, and reach more donors – including those new to the arts – through strong advocacy efforts. NAC has started developing initiatives in this area and has gotten the support of some philanthropists. Thanks to the untiring efforts of Chairman/NAC Professor Chan Heng Chee, a pledge of $1M has been secured from Mr Danny Yong, Founder of Yong Hon Kong Foundation and Dymon Asia Capital. This will form the foundation of NAC’s efforts to develop new ways to support and grow the arts scene in Singapore through philanthropy. We will announce more details in due course but watch this space.


  13. Even as we explore new partnerships, MCCY and NAC are deepening our partnerships with existing patrons, our arts groups, and the public. Together, I am confident that we can give life to the “democracy of deeds” envisioned by DPM Heng Swee Keat, and continue to build a vibrant and sustainable arts scene and society that we are all proud of.
  14. Thank you and I wish all of you an enjoyable evening!


Speeches Arts & Heritage 2019
Last updated on 26 July 2019