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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


  1. Good evening.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Patron of the Arts Award

  7. 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 continued support.
  8. 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.
  9. Amongst them, 34 recipients are Distinguished Patrons of the Arts, whom we recognise for their outstanding generosity and leadership.
    1. 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 Programme.
    2. Dr Cheryl Loh, who supported the Mirror Project at the Singapore International Photography Festival 2022, and the Art Photography Centre (DECK)’s building fund.
    3. 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 disabilities.
  10. 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.
  11. In-Kind sponsorships have also tripled to $19.3 million compared to the year before.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Our Evolving Arts Philanthropy Landscape

  16. 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.
    1. 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 Museum.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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

  17. 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.
  18. Arts education is not just about teaching students how to create or perform art.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Sustaining the arts sector with Our SG Arts Plan (2023 – 2027)

  22. 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 Economy.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. 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 artforms.
  29. 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.
  30. Conclusion

  31. 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.
  32. 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.
  33. 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.
  34. 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.
  35. 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.
  36. Thank you very much.
Last updated on 14 September 2023