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Shaping the Future of Our Arts & Heritage Together

Speech by Ms Low Yen Ling, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth & Trade and Industry at the Committee of Supply Debate 2023

  1. Mr Chairman, our arts and heritage are central to our Singapore identity and bring us together as one people.   
  2. The resumption of various physical events and large-scale gatherings will allow MCCY to make further strides towards shaping a bold and resilient arts and culture sector. We seek to achieve this in close partnership with the arts community and fellow Singaporeans. 

    Reaffirming our Sense of Community Amidst a Changing World

  3. In the past year, I have engaged with our practitioners and fellow Singaporeans to hear and learn more about their aspirations for Singapore’s arts & heritage scene. One of the common themes to emerge is the wish for an inclusive and forward-looking landscape where our arts and culture can continue to grow and flourish. 
  4. Mr. Sitoh Yih Pin, Mr. Xie Yao Quan, Ms. Tin Pei Ling and Mr. Raj Joshua Thomas, they have all asked about our plans for the arts and heritage sector moving forward. Let me begin by sharing about our next iteration of Our SG Arts Plan and Our SG Heritage Plan.

    Our SG Arts Plan
  5. Our SG Arts Plan, which was first launched in 2018, has since inspired Singaporeans from all walks of life, connected communities and reflected our unique Singapore identity to the rest of the world. 
    1. We launched the Sustain the Arts Fund, in short called stART, to encourage giving to small arts organisations. The fund has since benefited 22 small art organisations in the last financial year, including Reverberance, which is a Chinese wind-percussion ensemble that seeks to inspire the community through traditional arts.  The stART Fund also supported Legend: The Beginnings (传说之 人之初), which brought the art of Chinese orchestra to our audiences by retelling Chinese folklore through an immersive experience that combines music with story narration and animation.  
    2. To grow our audiences, we supported and delivered a range of programmes like Arts in Your Neighbourhood and Silver Arts, which brought arts experiences to our neighbourhoods and older Singaporeans as mentioned by passionately by other members earlier during your speeches.
    3. We also launched initiatives like the Arts x Tech Lab in 2021. This has fostered, especially during COVID-19, vibrant collaboration between the arts and tech sectors for innovative experimentation, and also deepened the arts industry’s digital capabilities in art-making and presentation of arts.
  6. Five years on, our arts masterplan is being refreshed to respond to the challenges of a post-COVID environment.  We will better leverage technology and the use of data to catalyse new possibilities for our practitioners, for arts organisations and for fellow Singaporeans. We will widen our base of partners as MCCY works closely with the arts and cultural sector to shape a bright and exciting arts and culture scene. Let me elaborate on what the updated master plan will seek to do.
  7. Firstly, NAC will aim to develop a connected society through the arts.
    1. We envision the arts linking our society across all key aspects of our life. Mr. Raj asked about our plans to develop spaces for communities to connect with one another. I want to assure him we will expand touch points for the arts by offering more arts activities in parks, in community, in lifestyle spaces that are readily accessible. To complement this, NAC will support research efforts to grow evidence on the social impact of the arts. 
    2. Ms. Hany Soh spoke on the importance of creating opportunities for our young to learn and pursue their passion for the arts, and we agree with her. NAC, NHB and our cultural institutions currently offer a wide range of arts and heritage events and programmes for families with young children. These include NGS’s Children’s Biennale, NHB’s Children’s Season, as well as initiatives via NAC’s arts and culture nodes. NAC’s funding towards major art companies also supports outreach efforts to children, such as the Singapore Repertory Theatre’s division called The Little Company. 
    3. We encourage parents to enrich their family life by supporting and participating in all these initiatives. We will also deepen our collaboration with the Ministry of Education on the Museum-Based Learning and Arts Education Programme, to provide our students with hands-on experiences as they learn about Singapore’s arts and heritage. 
  8. Secondly, we will further enhance access to the arts. We aim to develop Singapore into a distinctive city with accessible spaces and precincts for people to enjoy the arts where they live, work and play.
    1. To this end, NAC has embarked on a study to map out existing arts infrastructure in Singapore. This ongoing effort will bring government agencies and private stakeholders together to grow vibrant precincts.
  9. NAC, too, will aim to grow a flourishing and globally connected creative economy, as mentioned by Minister Edwin Tong, for the arts, through new business models, development pathways and internationalisation opportunities. 
    1. It will also continue to support local arts practitioners so that they can reach international audiences and gain recognition overseas. 
  10. I will elaborate on some of these initiatives later in my speech.

    Our SG Heritage Plan
  11. Mr Chairman, our Singapore heritage is a unique one that we are proud of. We will launch Our SG Heritage Plan 2.0 this year and build upon the progress we have achieved so far. Let me recap the key milestones.
    1. Today, our Hawker Culture is inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the ICH of Humanity. We’ve established The Stewards of ICH Awards to recognise excellent practitioners. 
    2. Besides three new community galleries, we also piloted the Street Corner Heritage Galleries in Balestier, Kampong Gelam, Little India and Chinatown.
    3. In recent years, the Padang, Fort Siloso and three Singapore River bridges were gazetted as National Monuments to preserve locations of significant history1.
  12. Looking ahead, I am happy to announce that our Heritage Plan for 2023 to 2027 will focus on enhancing our Singapore legacy in four key areas of identity, community, industry, and innovation.
  13. Under identity, we will find new ways to reflect the many layers of our Singapore story and its connections with the rest of the world.
    1. Apart from efforts in the area of archaeology, we will encourage content-based and object contributions from the public and offer more opportunities for Singaporeans to co-create exhibitions.
    2. In addition, we will expand the National Collection to cover the realm of design, as mentioned by Minister Edwin Tong. Moving forward, NHB will work with other agencies, including URA and NLB, to collect works of contemporary Singaporean designers and architects, and potentially from the region. We can all look forward to an upcoming exhibition on the works of Mr Andrew Gn, one of Singapore’s most prolific fashion designers at the Asian Civilisations Museum later this year.
  14. At the community level, we will work with Singaporeans from all walks of life to co-create more heritage touchpoints, like holding festivals and organising cultural programmes.
    1. In particular, we hope to have more youths join us, like volunteer Mr Ng Wee Liang, who helped document heritage businesses as part of NHB’s Kampong Gelam Citizen Engagement Project.  
  15. To grow our heritage industry, we will share our Singapore story with a wider regional and global audience through a range of initiatives, like forming new platforms to showcase our traditional crafts and highlighting our culture and heritage overseas. We will also continue to strengthen the sustainability of our heritage sector through the ongoing Organisation Transformation Grant, which encourages heritage businesses to adopt innovative projects.

    Reimagining our spaces for all

  16. As part of Our SG Arts and Heritage Plans, we will continue to bring arts and heritage closer to fellow Singaporeans and in our everyday environment. We will work with citizens and agencies to introduce public artworks and co-develop heritage programmes.
  17. Mr. Sitoh and Mr. Darryl David had asked about our plans to update our arts spaces to better support our practitioners. We remain committed to developing user-centric and inclusive arts spaces, particularly for emerging arts groups and practitioners. 
    1. Last year I shared about NAC and SLA’s plans to refurbish and pilot arts and culture sandboxes at Kampong Java.
    2. After NAC’s focus group discussions with key stakeholders, it was agreed that Kampong Java should be a sandbox and multi-disciplinary venue for artists to experience and incubate works of different art forms. It should also remain an accessible and affordable space for artists. 
    3. I am happy to share that renovations of the five double-storied units will start soon with the target for completion by 2024, next year. 
  18. Let me now turn to our innovation efforts to transform our heritage platforms and services. 

    Transforming our Arts & Heritage Sectors

    Accelerate digitalisation efforts to transform the sector
  19. The pandemic has spurred digital innovations which has brought new opportunities and wider audiences to the sector. As part of Our SG Arts and Heritage Plans, NAC and NHB will introduce various digital initiatives to transform the way we enjoy and learn about arts and heritage. 
    1. Later this month, NAC will launch a beta version of a one-stop digital platform for audiences to discover, to share and to book arts and culture events. 
    2. This platform will also help cultivate and deepen interest in the arts among Singaporeans. As a start, it will feature arts and culture events in the museums under NHB, the National Gallery Singapore and Esplanade, and offer users personalised recommendations. More features will be rolled out progressively over the year.
  20. Further, we will work closely with our practitioners as well as private stakeholders to further drive the adoption of digital technologies and solutions across the arts and heritage sector. 
    1. For example, NAC will work with UOB on the UOB-NAC Acceleration Programme for the Arts, which seeks to help artists and organisations build on their business and financial competencies.
    2. NAC will continue to organise the next edition of ‘Arts Matters’ this year, which aims to facilitate interdisciplinary and cross-sector learning with technology and commercial partners such as Branded.
  21. As technology continues to permeate our life and artistic expressions, the rise of the metaverse will open up new doors of opportunities for arts and culture sector. I am glad to announce that NAC will establish the Alliance for Action for Project Arts Metaverse this year to partner and co-create digital solutions with our stakeholders for this new world of possibilities. 
    1. NAC will leverage the Metaverse to showcase Singapore as a distinctive city for the arts. As more opportunities in the metaverse are unlocked, there is new potential for audience development, for monetisation, for the growth of innovative technologies for the arts. 
  22. In addition, NHB will partner the private sector to explore the development of new digital strategies for the heritage sector. This will include ways to digitally preserve and document our heritage assets, and how to augment visitor experiences at the museums through Virtual Reality experiences, 3D displays and Artificial Intelligence.
    1. We are looking forward to harnessing technology to create new experiences and enhance our appreciation of arts and culture.

    Investing in our arts workforce to support a growing creative economy
  23. Apart from leveraging new platforms, MCCY will deepen our investments in our people. I agree with Ms. Tin and Mr. Sitoh that we must develop the capabilities of our workforce and the resources needed for a thriving creative economy. Allow me to quickly outline our strategy.
  24. Firstly, we will not let up on our efforts to professionalise the arts sector and support the growth and development of our practitioners in their career pathways. 
    1. Since last year, NAC has been working closely with the sector on the competencies needed for the arts practitioners to grow in their careers.
    2. I am glad to share that NAC is developing Competency Frameworks to help the practitioners hone their skills, starting with one for those in Arts Education, Technical Theatre and Production. This framework which will be launched later this year, will be accompanied by roadshows to guide practitioners on the recommended skillsets.
    3. NAC will also be collaborating with Institutes of Higher Learning and continuing education and training centres to strengthen career pathways in the arts and culture sector. This includes embedding digital skills as part of the students’ Pre-Employment Training (PET), and curating resources to support the organisational processes and transformation of our arts groups. 
  25. Secondly, we will boost the support for arts SEPs, many of whom were affected by the pandemic. 
    1. The Arts Resource Hub (ARH), which was formed in 2019 to support the SEP community, has since gained more than 2,500 subscribers and held close to 76 talks and workshops. It currently oversees three co-working and performance spaces.
    2. NAC is currently reviewing the ARH to better support the needs of the SEPs. It will embark on a series of deep dive sessions with various arts SEPs to gain insights and their feedback on the development of the ARH and aim to enhance the hub progressively this year. This follows my meeting last month with a group of more than 30 arts SEPs during which we discussed how we can better support them and co-create solutions together.


  26. Chairman, I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone who came forward to share their hopes for our arts and culture. 
  27. Together, we have carved a vision of an inclusive, accessible and vibrant arts and heritage sector that will anchor and inspire Singaporeans for years to come.  MCCY is committed to partner our practitioners and Singaporeans to realise this collective vision for a distinctive, connected and creative Singapore. Thank you.

[1] The three National Monuments gazetted are Padang (gazetted in August 2022); Fort Siloso (gazetted in February 2022), and the Singapore River bridges, consisting of Cavenagh Bridge, Anderson Bridge and Elgin Bridge (collectively gazetted in October 2019).

Last updated on 15 March 2023