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Building on our success to bring the arts and heritage sector to new heights

Speech by Ms Low Yen Ling, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth & Trade and Industry at the Committee of Supply Debate 2024

  1. The arts and heritage serve as powerful ways to connect Singaporeans of different backgrounds. 
    • The Government works closely with our arts and heritage practitioners, stakeholders, and the public to create and foster a vibrant arts and heritage ecosystem.
  2. In my speech today, I will share how we aim to bring Singapore’s arts and heritage to the next bound of growth. 
  3. First, we will open up more diverse touchpoints to widen Singaporeans’ access to arts and heritage. Second, we will support the development of our practitioners and boost their artistic excellence. Third, we will build a more robust arts and heritage ecosystem to bring the sector to greater heights. 

    Boosting Singapore’s flourishing arts and heritage sector

  4. In recent years, we saw sustained and holistic efforts to expand the access to the arts, develop a wider audience and enrich our heritage. I think everyone remembers the pandemic years. During the pandemic period from 2019 to 2021, some $490 million was spent each year to boost and uphold the arts and heritage sector.
    • The National Arts Council provided grants and arts housing subsidies to support the creation and production of artistic works, foster organisational growth, and cultivate audience engagement. For instance, earlier on Minister Edwin Tong talked about SAW, I think it bears repeating. Singapore Art Week reached over 1.4 million attendees in 130 events last year. And this year, SAW 2024 featured 183 events. Partners from different sectors, like Marina Bay Sands, HDB, and Singapore Airlines worked with us to bring Singapore art to wider audiences. 
  5. To promote and preserve our heritage, we opened the revamped Peranakan Museum last year. And in addition, we joined Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to jointly nominate the kebaya to be on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. 
  6. Last year, we unveiled Our SG Arts and Heritage plans for 2023 to 2027, like what Minister Edwin Tong mentioned, envisioning an inclusive, accessible and vibrant arts and heritage sector for Singapore. We aim to create a Connected Society, foster a Creative Economy and establish Singapore as a Distinctive City. 
  7. At the same time, our SG Heritage Plan 2.0 seeks to empower the community to safeguard and promote our shared heritage, and encourage active participation in shaping our heritage landscape. We will build the growth of our heritage sector upon the foundational blocks of identity, industry, innovation and community.
    Additional boost of $100m for the next lap
  8. The government is committed to the success of these plans. DPM Lawrence Wong announced in the 2024 Budget that an additional $100 million would be allocated over the four years of Our SG Arts Plan 2023 - 2027. 
    • Ms Usha Chandradas would be glad to know that this $100 million provided is on top of the annual budget for arts and heritage and will go towards: 
      • Number one, expanding arts access for Singaporeans;
      • Number two, developing artists and arts workers in Singapore and; 
      • Number three, building a robust arts ecosystem where arts companies and artists thrive.
    • In addition, we will look at making more significant investments in bringing the arts to the community, catalysing new spaces in our city, and leveraging the arts for social impact. We will further support arts groups to achieve excellence, for instance, by catalysing innovations, expanding into new audience segments and building common new capabilities through technology. 
    • Let me elaborate. 

    Connected Society: Expanding access of arts and heritage to Singaporeans

  9. NAC will expand access to the arts for Singaporeans so that all can participate and benefit. We want to extend the reach and the significance of the arts sector to Singaporeans across diverse walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds.
    Using power of the arts to promote health & wellbeing 
  10. Besides widening the access, we will unpack the power of the arts to promote the health and wellness of Singaporeans.  
    • Yesterday evening, Ms Joan Pereira and Mr Mohd Fahmi have shared, super-aging Singapore can certainly gain from arts programmes that seek to enhance the quality of life and personal wellness. 
    • We in MCCY and NAC, agree with both Ms Joan Pereira and Mr Mohd Fahmi. We have had good feedback from such programmes and continue to do more in this area. 
    • For example, participants in the series of mindful 'Slow Art' programmes by the National Gallery Singapore reported lower stress levels and enhanced wellbeing, compared to non-attendees.
    Leveraging the Arts to Support Healthier Seniors
  11. So I am glad to announce that NAC will collaborate with the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), and SingHealth to develop a framework and resources to guide the design of programmes that promote the arts for health and wellbeing.
    • The framework, to be developed by 2027, will include best practices, impact measurement tools and case studies that can be used by our artists and our community partners. 
    • It will initially focus on the wellbeing of our seniors, with plans to subsequently expand its scope to reach wider groups of people. 
    Open up opportunities for arts practitioners
    • The framework and the resources will open up more opportunities for our arts practitioners to use their craft to support and promote wellbeing. 
    • This move is also aligned with our aim to increase access to the arts for citizens through health and community touchpoints, further supporting the Government’s HealthierSG objectives.
  12. NHB will continue partnering with social service agencies on heritage-based interventions targeted at improving wellbeing, especially that of our seniors. This is part of the focus on community under Our SG Heritage Plan 2.0.
    • Give you a quick example, I think some of you may have visited the National Museum. The National Museum of Singapore recently created an inclusive social space called Reunion, for our seniors, including those with mild cognitive impairment and dementia, to engage in meaningful activities and conversations inspired by the museum’s collection. 
    Hearing from our youth
  13. Chairman, besides engaging our seniors through the arts, we are also actively engaging our youth in the plans for promoting and safeguarding Singapore’s heritage. I agree with Mr Keith Chua and Mr Sitoh Yih Pin on the importance of strengthening our youth’s understanding and appreciation of our shared legacy. 
  14. To this end, the NHB has involved 35 young people on its panel to develop the inaugural Youth Heritage Blueprint. This gives our youth a platform to share their views and a chance to shape our museums and heritage landscape.
    • 26-year-old Ms Nur Ashikin Binte Muhamad Ali, a Project Manager and also a committee lead of the Youth Panel, is excited to see how digital tools like AR and VR, augmented and virtual reality, can make heritage come alive for younger people. 
    • Since January 2023, the Youth Panel has received feedback and suggestions from more than 1,000 youths. The Panel is analysing the findings and developing recommendations for the Blueprint, which will be published in July this year. 
  15. Through these initiatives, we hope to make the arts and heritage accessible for all Singaporeans across different age groups, ensuring meaningful engagement with our cultural heritage. 

    Creating diverse spaces as touchpoints for the arts and heritage

  16. Chairman, as part of our aim to widen access to the arts, NAC will further expand the diversity of arts spaces in Singapore. This is in line with our goal to make Singapore a distinctive city. 
  17. Mr Darryl David would be glad to know that NAC will continue to collaborate with the public sector and private sector partners to unlock arts spaces for artists and also our arts organisations, while also enlivening our public spaces with the arts. 
    • For example, NAC works with the URA on this CSFS, Community and Sports Facilities Scheme, which co-locates community, arts, sports spaces with commercial developments. Now recently, The Artground, which is an inclusive family-oriented arts space for children opened at the One Holland Village mall. This not only offers Singaporean families easy access to quality arts experiences but also enhances the vibrancy of commercial spaces. 
  18. To create more touchpoints for the arts, NAC will continue to collaborate with public sector and private sector partners to unlock and develop arts spaces across Singapore, including the use of new and also refurbished spaces. 
  19. Take 45 Armenian Street for example. NAC has been working with the arts community and stakeholders to co-create the vision for the redevelopment of this space. It is being developed as the hub for artistic experimentation and to support the work of young and emerging practitioners. We thank Ms Usha Chandradas for her feedback, when she delivered her cut last evening. When completed in two years’ time in 2026, 45 Armenian Street will provide about 14,000 square feet of space for the arts.

    Enhance Appreciation of Heritage Assets
  20. Chairman, besides having greater access to the arts in a variety of spaces, Singaporeans are also gaining a deeper appreciation of our heritage assets at different spots across the island. 
  21. Mr Mark Lee, Mr Darryl David and Mr Sitoh Yih Pin asked about our plans to foster community bonding, national pride and enliven neighbourhoods through our heritage assets.  
  22. As part of Our SG Heritage Plan 2.0, NHB will launch Heritage Activation Nodes, in short HAN, in various neighbourhoods islandwide.
    • Together with community partners and heritage interest groups, we will co-create heritage activities and celebrate the unique heritage of our neighbourhoods in each HAN.
    • The first of these nodes will be introduced in Katong – Joo Chiat just next month, April 2024, while the second HAN in Clementi will be rolled out in the later part of this year. I was hoping that Dr Tan Wu Meng would be in house when I say that, about the second HAN in Clementi.
    • Now behind the development of the Katong-Joo Chiat HAN is Katong Culture, a heritage interest group from Joo Chiat CCMC, Community Club Management Committee, and their community partners.
    • Now through these nodes, we hope to encourage greater appreciation of our heritage assets among Singaporeans. The HAN will offer fresh heritage touchpoints and provide the platform and opportunities for Singaporeans to co-create heritage experiences. 

    Building a vibrant ecosystem for a stronger arts and heritage sector

  23. Chairman I will now touch on how we will create a vibrant arts and heritage ecosystem with a strong core of arts and heritage businesses and practitioners.  
  24. As I mentioned earlier, NAC will be investing an additional $100million dollars funding in over the next four years. Under the Creative Economy thrust of the Our SG Arts Plan 2023 – 2027, the funding will be used to grow our arts ecosystem and help our local arts companies scale their impact and speed up their transformation. 
    • First, product development. We will further support our artists and our arts companies to develop distinctive and diverse arts offerings for local and international audiences.
    • Second, innovation and capability building. NAC will support transformation in art making and artistic productions that leverage on technology to catalyse innovative arts products.
    • Third, audience development. NAC will help our arts companies to expand their reach or cultivate new audience segments through engaging and innovative works or presentations. 

    Audience development as enabler

  25. Now, let me quickly elaborate on how we will broaden and grow our audience through partnerships, technology, data and also insights. 
    • NAC will partner with individuals, including independent content creators and writers, as well as organisations, on joint projects and initiatives to expand the overall audience base.
    • We will use technology as an instrument to achieve our goals. It is an important learning point from COVID that we intend to continue to harness. For example, NAC’s Catch, which is a one-stop online destination for all things arts and culture in Singapore, will help our artists and arts organisations to 1. To promote their work, 2. To reach a wider audience, and 3. To build relationships with potential supporters. 
    • In addition, technology can empower us to better understand consumers’ preferences and tastes through data collection and as well as analytics. So with this knowledge, we will be then more equipped to grow the arts and culture scene strategically.

    Developing a strong core of practitioners 

  26. To create a vibrant arts and heritage ecosystem, we need a strong core of practitioners with talent, capabilities and skills.
    • Many of our arts practitioners are self-employed persons (SEPs). As Minister Edwin Tong announced earlier, NAC will strengthen the support for our Arts SEPs to boost their prospects and their chances of success. We will enhance and increase their training opportunities to enable them to pursue their profession with better career stability.  
    • NAC will develop multiple pathways of training and support for Arts SEPs. Now this can be in the form of workplace-based, peer-to-peer and also self-directed learning. The Arts Resource Hub will also be enriched with career guidance resources and content that is tailored for our Arts SEPs. For instance, NAC worked with Jeremiah Choy, an SEP and creative director, producer and curator to produce a series of videos with tips and best practices on how to set up a business in the arts and how to be a successful freelancer.
    • In addition, NAC will widen the funding access for Arts SEPs to receive training opportunities. These training support enhancements will certainly benefit SEPs including the arts instructors, as Ms Jean See had pointed out during the delivery of her cut last evening. I would also like to assure Ms Jean See that NAC works with the NICA, National Instructors & Coaches Association, through the NAC-NICA Training Support programme, providing our SEPs with training subsidies and training allowances to support their upskilling journey. NAC also provides affordable physical spaces for arts SEPs and arts instructors’ use via the ARH, Arts Resource Hub.
  27. To maintain a vibrant arts and heritage ecosystem, we will continue to honour and celebrate the peaks of artistic excellence in our midst.
    • The Cultural Medallion, as the nation’s highest arts accolade, provides funds to support its recipients’ continuous artistic pursuits and contributions to the Singapore art scene.   
    • We would like to assure Ms Usha Chadradas that NAC has, over the years, broadened the range of projects that the CM Fund can support. I also want to assure her that the process for the recipients to utilise the Fund has also been simplified.  

    Increasing accessibility to arts and heritage 

  28. Chairman, please allow me to say a few words in Mandarin.
  29. 主席,艺术和文化是我们生活的写照,能紧密联系来自不同社会背景的国人,促成凝聚力和认同,是社会和国家建设重要的一环。文社青部在去年开展了“新加坡艺术与文化遗产计划2.0”,黄循财副总理也在今年的财政预算声明中宣布,政府将为2023到2027年的“新加坡艺术拓展蓝图”投入1亿元的资金。这笔资金将用来支持三大发展重点:第一,建设互联互通的社会,第二,发展新加坡的创意经济,以及第三,将新加坡打造成为一个富有特色的城市。这笔资金将帮助我们扩大艺术的范围、增加国人接触艺术的机会,还有栽培更多艺术家,建立一个更完善的艺术生态。
  30. 文社青部一向致力将我们的艺术和文化带给更多国人,让更多人有机会参与文化艺术活动,从中受惠。今年,我们将再接再厉推出更多、更缤纷多彩的活动。例如,国家文物局将在今年一连推出两个“文化遗产新启点”,第一个是在加东如切一带,第二个则在金文泰一带。这两个文化启点,将为我们的国人开启更多接触历史文化的机会,让大家能够更进一步认识所居住的社区,同时一起体验和创造难忘的集体回忆。
  31. 文化艺术除了能够凝聚我们的社区,也可以陶冶我们的性情,让我们感受生活的美好,带来正面的能量。因此,今年艺术理事会将会和医疗保健伙伴们合作,从促进国人身心健康的角度来推广文化艺术活动。艺理会和医疗保健伙伴们将合作整合框架和资源,引导艺术工作者和社区伙伴们设计能够帮助怡情养性的文化艺术活动,培养国人对于艺术的兴趣和爱好,让生活更加丰富、让生活更多姿多彩,也更有意义。这项计划将率先以乐龄人士为重点,往后将扩大规模让更多社群受惠。 
  32. 主席,文化、社区及青年部致力于联合我们的艺术工作者以及各领域的伙伴,携手为国人打造一个精彩纷呈,充满活力的艺术文化领域,以及一个和谐包容、富有创意、凝聚力还有独特魅力的新加坡。 

    Our arts and heritage belong to Singaporeans

  33. Chairman, our arts and heritage belong to all Singaporeans. Everyone can contribute to the vibrancy of our arts and heritage ecosystem. We invite all stakeholders to co-create a dynamic and flourishing Singapore arts and heritage scene together.
  34. MCCY, NAC, and NHB, we are committed to working closely with partners in the private sector, public sector, and people sectors to deepen our shared identity and grow a distinctive city that is anchored on our shared arts and culture, because our artists and practitioners form the powerhouse for Singapore’s creative economy. With our arts and heritage plans in place, we have the chance to turn our aspirations into reality - to become a creative city that inspires. Thank you.
Last updated on 07 March 2024