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Developing a vibrant and inclusive arts and culture scene

14 January 2019

Motion for Adjournment by Terence Ho Wee San (Nominated Member): The Arts as an Integral Part of our People and a Strategic National Resource

Senior Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng: Mr Speaker, I congratulate Mr Terence Ho on his maiden speech, and thank him for his long-standing contributions and ardent support for the arts and culture in Singapore.

A vibrant and sustainable arts and culture scene

2. The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) agrees that a vibrant and sustainable arts and culture scene brings diverse communities together, adds to our overall well-being, and roots us as a people and a nation. Our cultural offerings can also inspire us and show the world who we are and what we stand for, and deepen our sense of national identity. Our arts and culture play a critical role in MCCY’s efforts to foster a more caring, cohesive and confident Singapore and Singaporeans.

3. MCCY, National Arts Council (NAC), and the National Heritage Board (NHB) partner the public, private, and people sectors to make arts and culture an integral part of the lives of all Singaporeans. We support and facilitate our arts community’s instrumental role in developing a flourishing arts ecosystem. More people now enjoy, appreciate, and benefit from varied and diverse arts and culture programmes, since we expanded access and grew these offerings. The 2017 Population Survey on the Arts indicated that attendance is on an upward trend, with 54% of Singaporeans attending arts events. This is the highest on record since 2005, not including the peak in 2015 when there was a surge in events to celebrate SG50. Moreover, 3 in 4 respondents said that the arts and culture improved the quality of life for everyone, and agreed that arts and culture is something that Singaporeans can be proud of.

4. Mr Ho noted that ticketed attendances had fallen from 2012 to 2016. According to the Singapore Cultural Statistics, there were 1.8 million ticketed attendances in 2016. However, that year, there were more non-ticketed performing arts activities than ever before that year, with attendances also the highest on record since 2012. MCCY and NAC are working on increasing both ticketed and non-ticketed attendance, as both contribute to the vibrancy and sustainability of our arts and culture landscape. We hope that non-ticketed arts activities will create accessible entry points to the arts, while artists and arts groups will build on the increased awareness, and create works that could interest and attract more people to become paying audience.

5. I agree with Mr Ho that recognition of our arts practitioners helps develop role models. Singapore has been privileged to have outstanding artists, able to capture and transmit the essence of what it means to be Singaporean through their work. This is why since 1979, 125 have been awarded with the Cultural Medallion – Singapore’s highest artistic accolade. Notable artistic achievement, and significant contributions to the community, are also recognized via the National Day Awards. MCCY and NAC hope that award recipients will continue to give back to the community through education and mentorship, create works that resonate with both local and international audiences, and inspire us through the pursuit of excellence.

Our SG Arts Plan

6. NAC launched Our SG Arts Plan in October last year to build on these existing efforts, and chart strategies and policies over the next five years. The Plan was developed in close consultation with the arts community, and seeks to make Singapore “home to diverse and distinctive arts that inspire our people, connect our communities and position Singapore globally”. NAC has identified eight priorities where it will work with our arts practitioners to achieve our shared objectives. I will elaborate more on the areas of growing audiences, building capabilities, strengthening research, and taking our arts beyond our shores, which are relevant to the points that Mr Ho has addressed.

Growing audiences

7. Strategies for sustained audience development must cater to different groups of Singaporeans. I therefore agree with Mr Ho on the importance of providing Singaporeans of all ages and backgrounds with greater access to our arts and culture.

8. Singaporeans already enjoy a year-round calendar of diverse cultural offerings, including exhibitions, performances and activities, as well as free access to our national museums and heritage institutions. These include popular events like our annual Singapore Art Week, Singapore Heritage Festival, PAssionArts Festival, and Singapore Night Festival. MCCY and NAC also partner organisations such as the National Library Board and People’s Association to bring quality programmes directly to neighbourhood libraries, community centres, and other community spaces.

9. In addition, NAC brings together thought leaders, stakeholders, and practitioners at platforms such as the Arts in Eldercare Seminar and Arts & Disability Forum, to discuss how different communities can be better engaged through the arts and culture. NAC will continue to strengthen partnerships with the social service and healthcare sectors, to implement innovative programmes that can best benefit under-reached communities.

10. Beyond programmes, the government has invested significantly in new cultural infrastructure. 2015 alone saw the opening of the National Gallery Singapore and the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre. We are currently revamping the Singapore Art Museum, and developing a new waterfront theatre at the Esplanade. Our aspiration is for these spaces to foster audience growth, provide opportunities for interaction, and inspire our people through the presentation of home-grown, Southeast Asian, and international works. As we continue our investment into infrastructural developments and platforms to showcase artistic works, we look to the arts community’s to create quality content which can engage new and existing audiences.

11. In this context, I thank Mr Ho for his suggestion of a “culture pass” mobile application. MCCY and NAC will consider this as part of ongoing efforts to grow audiences, and enhance the accessibility of our arts and culture, by leveraging technology.

Arts education

12. Mr Ho rightly highlighted the importance of arts education. Under Our SG Arts Plan, we continue to prioritise arts education efforts to nurture audiences of the future. Early exposure to the arts fosters creative thinking and imagination, helps our children develop empathy and confidence, and makes art appreciation and participation a way of life. Arts education also helps our youth better appreciate Singapore’s cultural heritage, and develop a stronger sense of national identity.

13. MCCY and NAC work closely with partners like the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), to enhance opportunities for our youth to engage more with the arts. These include the Artist-in-School Scheme, Arts Education Programme, museum-based and performing arts-based learning experiences, SOTA, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the arts and culture. MCCY and NAC will continue to work with MOE to incorporate the arts into other learning areas, and with the arts community to create content that will inspire and develop our young minds.

Building capabilities and strengthening research – traditional arts

14. 何先生强调有关了解、赏析及推广传统艺术的重要性。我同意传统艺术有助于叙述我们古往至今的新加坡故事。我们能够通过这些传统文化把不同背景的人聚集在一起,促进不同族群之间的相互了解。

15. 传统艺术是国家艺术理事会在“新加坡艺术拓展蓝图”(Our SG Arts Plan)下重点培育人才和加强研究工作的领域之一。例如,最近刚翻新完毕的史丹福艺术中心(Stamford Arts Centre)将聚集多个不同的传统艺术团体并通过活动让社区更近距离接触丰富的传统文化。这与艺理会和传统艺术团体的现有合作相得益彰,为甘榜格南(Kampong Glam)等地区注入活力,也让更多的国人有机会能够接触到传统艺术。国家艺术理事会也将通过驻留计划,鼓励从事传统艺术和当代艺术的艺术工作者进行交流。我们希望通过这些计划,传统艺术团体能够培养自身的能力,呈现更吸引国人的艺术作品。

16. 此外,国家艺术理事会将和新加坡华族文化中心等机构合作,研究本地的传统习俗与艺术形式。艺理会也将和国家文物局共同探讨传统艺术其他方面的研究领域。这将有助于我们的艺术团体尝试更多新的创意和创作,促进人们对艺术的欣赏和评论。此外,国家艺术理事会也将和教育部及幼儿培育署合作,鼓励人们从小培养对传统艺术的兴趣。

Taking art beyond our shores

17. Mr Ho noted that our arts and culture is one way we can showcase Singapore internationally. Under Our SG Arts Plan, NAC will continue to work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to: (i) establish Singapore as a valuable collaborative partner for arts and culture in the region; (ii) develop international residencies and capability building programmes; and (iii) extend an effective Singapore presence overseas. We will support our artists to grow and scale new heights, and help profile Singapore overseas.


18. In conclusion, I would like to thank Mr Ho for his views and suggestions. The government will do our best and find new and better ways to provide resources, infrastructure and platforms. I look forward to our arts community doing its part to develop diverse, rich and engaging works that can connect with and inspire audience groups across different backgrounds including the under-served, whether arts enthusiasts or novices, at home and abroad. Let us work together to achieve our shared vision for the arts and culture in Singapore.

Last Updated: 15 January 2019

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