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Fostering interactions and connecting communities through arts

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at the PAssionArts Awards and Artists’ Networking Nite

28 November 2018

Chief Executive Director, PA, Mr Desmond Tan,

Friends of PAssionArts,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am very happy to join you this evening. It is so nice to see so many of you here, energised by arts and wanting to put your energy into arts. Since PAssionArts was introduced in 2012, it has developed into a nation-wide community arts movement. The number of participants that PAssionArts has reached out to has more than doubled, from 250,000 in 2012 to over 520,000 in 2017. You have seen from the various sharing earlier that it is not just the big numbers that matter, but the kind of one-on-one engagements you get that is really invaluable. I would really like to thank all of you here for your contributions to PAssionArts! 

PAssionArts

2. We have 2 important social objectives for PAssionArts. The first is to bring art to the doorsteps of Singaporeans across the country, making it accessible to everyone regardless of background. As a society, we wish to see all Singaporeans, regardless of family background and income level, be given access to art and music as part of our lives. All of us here, our lives have been enriched by arts. I am sure we would like to see the rest of Singapore be given that opportunity. The second is to enhance social bonding through PAssionArts, where people of diverse backgrounds – ages, ethnicities, income levels, foreigners and locals – can come together to bond through art making. By doing so, we build relationships – relationships between families, between and across communities. Our identity as Singaporeans will be enriched because we share common experiences. When we meet each other, even when it is across the ocean, and we talk about our common experiences in Singapore, I hope that art-making will be one of them. Without music, without visual arts, without dance, we would have been much poorer. I am sure all of us here share this passion about using arts for social good and building a nation through the arts and culture.

 

Making the Arts accessible to all

3. The arts and culture are an integral part of what makes Singapore a vibrant and liveable city. Just imagine that we don’t have what we saw earlier – the beach party, the fence art, the blanket making – how much poorer would we be? Because of arts, because of what you do, year in year out, community by community, you have brought a lot of joy and created valuable memories for many people. This is one of the top priorities under Our SG Arts Plan, to increase the opportunities for our people to experience and connect with each other through the arts wherever they live, work and play.   Initiatives such as PAssionArts are critical in ensuring that all Singaporeans have access to, and can express themselves through, the power of the arts.   Many of you have made a conscious effort to reach out to some of the groups that are not easily accessed, for example those with special needs. That is a wonderful experience. It is about giving the person with special needs a chance to normalise themselves in the society. It is also a great opportunity for the able-bodied Singaporean to learn how to interact with them so that we can welcome them into our society. This is what Singaporean society should be. It should not be about excluding segments; it should be inclusive and welcoming.

 

4. Let me share one example with you. One of this year’s PAssionArts Festival projects called “Payung Batik 1000” involved the painting of 1,000 batik umbrellas to create a colourful art installation, reflecting the vibrant community spirit. In addition, participants were also encouraged to exchange a 5kg bag of rice for one painted umbrella, with the rice going to vulnerable families in Tampines. The beautiful work displayed at Our Tampines Hub is made possible by the many volunteers in Tampines. Mdm Norzailailah, who started participating in PAssionArts in 2017, volunteered as an art facilitator to help guide participants in batik painting at various Payung Batik pre-festival workshops. She even brought her three young children to join in the art creation for a good cause!

 

Fostering interactions and connecting communities

5. Through its wide range of programmes, PAssionArts fosters interactions and connects communities. There are programmes involving the novices to professional artists; with genres ranging from batik art, eco-friendly art to musical programmes like learning the ukulele! The programmes are designed to be inclusive by transcending different languages, backgrounds and cultures. There is something for everyone in PAssionArts. The results are positive – based on surveys, over 85% of the participants at these workshops shared that they had opportunity to interact with friends from a different race or age group. 

 

6. The 2018 edition also saw curated opportunities for parents to bond with their children. Over 27,000 families with children under the age of 12 participated in these activities, such as “Nee Soon’s FUNtARTstic (pronounced as FUN-TARS-TICK) Fiesta” organised collectively by the five Nee Soon CACCs. The PAssionArts Art Village was deliberately held at the new Built-To-Order estate along Yishun Street 51 to engage young families who had just moved into the area. For instance, the Woon family came together to create a part of the lighted art installation titled “#Streetblocks”, and shared that they enjoyed themselves and were excited to be given an opportunity to create art together as a family.

 

7.  PAssionArts also serves another purpose – which is to provide a platform for volunteerism and industry development for artists. It is a combined effort of many stakeholders in the art and cultural sector, including more than 1,000 champions and volunteers, hundreds of local artists, and 88 Community Arts and Culture Clubs (CACCs).  This year, it has involved more than 550 workshops island-wide and received around 100 responses from the “open-call” for proposals – the highest since its inception! It has grown the ecosystem of the art sector with many artists developing community engagement skills and experiencing in creating for the masses. Earlier I had the chance to speak to some of the artists and ask them how their involvement year-after-year has helped them. They told me that there are certain things to watch out for and to have, so that there is better participation and involvement. We are providing opportunities to learn community arts engagement. Art should not just be in the gallery; art is for everyone by everyone. If you believe that Singapore can be a culturally vibrant country, art has to be out there where we live.

 

8. The growing popularity of PAssionArts is also the result of the People’s Association constantly updating and enhancing its offerings. PA has worked closely with key partners like the National Arts Council, our Singapore artists, as well as community leaders, to ensure that PAssionArts remains of high quality, and is relevant in engaging for all its participants.

 

Conclusion

9. Lastly, I would like to commend PA for another successful PAssionArts edition, and to thank everyone who has made PAssionArts a success! Special thanks to PA for organising the Artists Networking Nite in conjunction with the PAssionArts Awards – to share best practices as we celebrate the good work done by the CACCs in promoting community art. Through these activities, the arts play a critical role in enabling all of us from multi-ethnic, multi-racial, and multi-religious Singapore to come together, learn more about one another, and develop the friendships that make Singapore home

 

10. What you have done in PAssionArts means so much for everyone who has participated. Arts is a chance for expression. It is about the family coming together, not on their iPads or handphones, but parents getting to know their children better. It is about us discovering that we have talent – that there is a hidden artist, singer, dancer in everyone. PAssionArts is about letting yourself loose and having that hidden talent coming through. It is about expressing yourself and enjoying life. What better way to enjoy life than through music, art and dance?

 

11. It is also about us knowing and appreciating each other across different races. How else would we call ourselves Singaporeans? When all of us have the chance to participate in and enjoy the arts, we are truly Singaporeans and we would have arrived as a vibrant cultural society. We are not there yet – we still have many more people to reach out to. Artists here too have a role to educate our people in arts. Let’s work together and look forward to another successful year of PAssionArts next year. Thank you.

Last Updated: 05 December 2018

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