Arts philanthropy supports our arts community in their pursuit of artistic excellence
Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister For Culture, Community And Youth, & Second Minister For Law, At Patron of the Arts Award on 12 Sep 2023
13 September 2023
So honoured to join you here this evening for the 40 th Patron of the Arts Award
(POAA). It is a significant occasion and a milestone. Significant because we want to
recognise the generous contributions of many organisations and individuals who
have come forward to support the development of the arts. It is also a milestone
because just last week, we launched Our SG Arts Plan for the next five years,
charting our way forward for our arts and culture sector by making sure that this plan
is not a static plan, it is an evolving plan. One that moves with the times, that absorbs
and learns like an AI.
Building a vibrant arts sector is so important to us because the arts are an integral
part of our society and culture. It reflects the heart and soul of all of us, as a nation
and as individuals. It brings people together in ways that not many other things and
platforms can. It enriches our lives; it challenges us to be better persons than we
could be. An artist reflects us in the work, showing us a different side, giving us a
different perspective, igniting our passion. And it diversifies and grows the national
economy in the form of the creative industry. And that is one of the core pillars of the
new Arts Plan, to make sure that our art professions are anchored, that there is a
strong career path building their way into the creative economy.
In all of this, arts philanthropy plays an important part, a big part of this, in building up
a vibrant arts sector. It supports our arts community in their pursuit of artistic
excellence in their works, in turn to showcase Singapore as a truly distinctive city of
the arts. It also brings different segments of the public together, facilitating the
creation of a shared identity through shared cultural experiences, promotes greater
empathy and understanding.
Each year, through the POAA, we recognise the vital role that organisations and
individuals play in sustaining and also growing our arts sector. Through your
contributions, you have enabled our artists and arts groups to come together, to
create, to make, to present diverse quality art that engages our public, delight our
audiences both locally, as well as internationally. Your kind and generous support
and donations, has helped to nurture artistic talent, enhance arts education, and
promote greater access and participation in the arts for all Singaporeans.
Patron of the Arts Award
This is a milestone year - the 40 th edition of the POAA since its inception in 1983. At
the very first POAA 40 years ago, we honoured four awardees: ExxonMobil,
Singapore Airlines, Singapore Turf Club, and the Singapore Tourism Board. Since
then, I am glad to see that four these organisations have continued to champion and
support the National Arts Council (NAC). And we are very deeply heartened by their
But this year, 40 years later, we are standing here in this room, honouring more than
400 corporates and individuals who have contributed over $45 million to the arts in
2022. This is not just a 25% increase in the number of patrons compared to the year
before, but also a contribution value that stands at an all-time three-year high. And
we are looking for this trajectory to continue to grow.
Amongst them, 34 recipients are Distinguished Patrons of the Arts, whom we
recognise for their outstanding generosity and leadership.
Mapletree Investments, who have made the arts more accessible by
supporting the Arts in the City community performance, SCO’s community
outreach concert, and the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts’ (NAFA)
scholarships and awards through the NAFA-Mapletree Youth Resilience
Dr Cheryl Loh, who supported the Mirror Project at the Singapore
International Photography Festival 2022, and the Art Photography Centre
(DECK)’s building fund.
Mr Ng Kok Song, who is not able to join us today unfortunately, stepped up to
provide platforms for people to showcase their works and nurture their
creative talents. He has supported SG Enable through the I’m Able Collective,
and an extension of their art gallery, showcasing art pieces by persons with
I am also pleased to learn that both Dr Loh, Mr Ng, and well over 40% of this year’s
recipients are first-time arts patrons. Other first-time arts patrons include the Liu Kuo
Sung Foundation, who donated 17 pieces of artwork to the National Gallery
Singapore, some of which are currently on display.
In-Kind sponsorships have also tripled to $19.3 million compared to the year before.
All of this coming together is very heartening for me personally, and for my
colleagues at NAC and MCCY. It is a remarkable achievement that demonstrates the
strong and sustained support for the arts in Singapore. And it is indeed a strong
testament to how our people are recognising the immense value that the arts and
artists bring to our society. Not just in the museum and the galleries, but how it
resonates differently in each of us, both deeply and sustainably. And as we move
forward as a nation, the arts and culture will be an important driver of that progress.
In commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of POAA, I am happy to announce a new
POAA category this year, and that is the Honorary Patron of the Arts. This award will
recognise patrons who have been consistently supporting the development of our
arts sector, and have been awarded the Distinguished Patron of the Arts Award over
20 times. The first to receive this award will be UOB and SPH Media.
UOB has provided our artists with a platform to showcase their works on its
metaverse platform, SkyArtverse; and has organised arts programmes such
as the annual UOB Painting of the Year, and UOB Explorer, enhancing
general accessibility to the arts.
SPH Media has also supported arts organisations across different art forms
for various initiatives. This includes supporting the National Gallery Singapore
on their curatorial research, The Theatre Practice (TTP) for its productions and programmes, and Esplanade with in-kind sponsorship for its programmes
such as Home Grooves and Lights On.
On behalf of MCCY, NAC, the broader arts community and the artists themselves, I
would like to express my heartfelt appreciation and tremendous gratitude to all our
patrons for your invaluable support and partnership. But most of all, for your belief in
the arts, and the belief in the power of the arts. You have made a significant
difference to the vibrancy and diversity of our arts and contributed to the cultural
development of our nation.
Our Evolving Arts Philanthropy Landscape
In recent years, we have seen a new wave of arts philanthropy. Arts patrons are not
just giving financially, but are also giving their time, their expertise, talents, and their
network. More and more to help our artists and our organisations grow and thrive.
The networks help us to bring artists together, collaborate, making sure that together,
we collectively are greater than the sum of the parts.
JPL Consultants provided its expertise in professional engineering services to
support the contributions of the region’s leading international contemporary
art platform, the Singapore Biennale, organised by the Singapore Art
Elmwood Group provided monthly accounting services for contemporary
dance company, RAW Moves, to support its financial management that could
then help sustain their practice. Areas in which they are contributing are not
traditionally known to be associated with the arts, but nonetheless invaluable
as we move forward. As we want to build the arts economy and enhance the
creative economy, all of these fields will be particularly important.
Some have also offered their spaces to mitigate set-up costs, such as the
Marina Bay Sands who provided platforms for arts outreach and co-
sponsored a countdown lightshow, Share the Moment, an art project with
AUX Media Group during the Marina Bay Singapore Countdown 2023.
Others such as leading media houses in Singapore have provided in-kind
sponsorship on marketing and outreach to help arts organisations amplify their publicity outreach. For example, JCDecaux provided in-kind sponsorship
of their Out-of-home advertising spaces to raise publicity and drive footfall to
key arts festivals, such as the Singapore International Festival of the Arts
(SIFA), Aliwal Arts Festival, and as well as the Singapore Writers Festival.
Supporting the Backbone of our Arts Sector
Giving to the arts, especially arts education and small arts organisations is essential
for nurturing the next generation of not just artists but also audiences.
Arts education is not just about teaching students how to create or perform art.
Small arts organisations make up the majority of our arts landscape. These
organisations constantly experiment, collaborate, innovate with new ideas and
hopefully end up engaging a diverse audience. NAC have been supporting these arts
organisations through various grants and schemes, such as the Presentation and
Participation Grant, Capability Development Grant, and also the Sustain the Arts
(stART) fund. These grants help our arts organisations create, produce, and present
their works, as well as to develop their own in-house capabilities to skill up and level
up, and help them better engage with different and diverse audiences.
We are grateful for the support from patrons, such as Dr Andreas Teoh, Mr and Mrs
Christopher and Rosy Ho, Mr Tsai Eng-Rung, and the Tan Chay Bing Education
Fund, who have over the years supported arts education and the many smaller arts
organisations in our arts sector. They are tremendously important for Singapore, and
the continued development of our creative economy. They are important for our
future as they engage many young audiences and young artists.
Sustaining the arts sector with Our SG Arts Plan (2023 – 2027)
As I had mentioned earlier, and some of you may have been there, we launched Our
SG Arts Plan last week. The new Arts Plan has three major strategic thrusts –
Achieving a Connected Society, Building a Distinctive City, and Creating a Creative
I want to reiterate how this plan is a statement of belief in the power of the arts. Not
just a plan for everyone to follow, really a testament and philosophy of the power of
the arts and the impact it has in Singapore.
The plan represents a distinctive paradigm shift for how we think about developing
the arts in Singapore. By moving beyond the immediate arts sector and taking a more
holistic view, the plan expands the influence of the arts and considers its impact on
the wider society, on the lives of everyday Singaporeans in the spaces where they
work, live and play. And this means that your support can reach further across
society, as well as enrich lives more deeply. Each of these three thrusts represents
how the arts can intersect with and contribute to the society at large, be it in areas of
identity, liveability, or economy. Or just really enlivening the spaces including your
home, public transport and office, which will come alive with the arts.
One of the key thrusts of the Arts Plan is to create A Connected Society, where we
will drive advocacy and support for the arts. So the impact that we will have with the
arts plan is not just measured by what the arts plan can deliver, but having advocacy,
so that the plan can be exponentially independent.
We will foster a greater culture of giving and appreciation for the arts, where more
people are inspired and empowered to contribute to the arts in various ways, such as
donations, sponsorships, volunteering their own skills, or simply attending and
enjoying arts events. And I know that many artists will appreciate just that little
gesture of having the platform to showcase, and having an audience which
appreciate the arts as you do.
So we will continue to recognise and reward our arts patrons for their generosity and
impact, and to encourage them to continue their support and involvement in the arts.
This Plan, as I said at the onset, will not just be a policy document; it is really a
reflection of our core values, as we spent some years, through COVID, putting
together, understanding the arts groups, the different diverse views, understanding
and taking into account stakeholders’ views as well. It is a manifestation of our
collective aspirations and will serve as a blueprint for the future. It sets forth the
course for a bold understanding and a bold future for the arts in Singapore. It will be a
dynamic roadmap that will be responsive and evolving. And it will not be a one-time
effort. NAC will continue to seek public input, get artists feedback, collaborate with various stakeholders, work it, evolve it, embrace newer developments and new
I look forward to all your continued partnership with the sector as we strive towards
developing an arts sector that inspires society, sparks creativity, and is able to
connect Singapore to the world.
This evening, as I said is a special one for us as it is a tremendous occasion and a
great milestone for celebrating the 40 th edition of the POAA.
It has indeed been a privilege of mine to stand with our patrons, many of you who are
not just patrons but true art aficionados, and very dedicated to supporting the arts
through your constant patronage and being in the audience. I thank our new
generation of patrons who kindly extended their generosity to also help us develop
our arts in Singapore. And I want all of you to know that we don’t take any of this for
granted. We know that we constantly have to work hard to enjoy your patronage and
your support, and we will continue to do so.
Finally, I also want to thank our artists for pushing the boundaries of creativity, for
believing in themselves, just as we believe in them, and bringing about a positive
change and impact to society with their art.
And I can’t make a Patron of the Arts speech by not making a further appeal to many
more organisations out there and individuals who I hope will come forward and
support the arts. As I said, there are many ways of supporting the arts, do it as you
like, do it in your own way, but support the arts. Because together we can ensure that
the arts will continue, not just to flourish and thrive, but to take the next step and
beyond Singapore. When we look back one day, we will see all that we built to try
and push the arts and culture ecosystem forward will become a key driver and will
move the needle in our progress as a nation.
So thank you very much, and I hope that all of you share or passion and enthusiasm
to continue to support and celebrate the arts in Singapore.