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Creating a more vibrant and exciting arts scene for all

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at the Launch of Our SG Arts Plan

19 October 2018

Friends of the arts community,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

1. Good afternoon, and I’m very delighted to be here to launch Our SG Arts Plan this afternoon. Many of you here have contributed to this Plan, so I want to start by thanking each and every one of you for your frank and sincere feedback.

Building on our investments in the arts

2. Today, Singapore offers a rich and diverse palate of arts offerings throughout the year. Our artists have many opportunities to present their works in Singapore and abroad. Many Singaporeans also appreciate the value of the arts. This is the result of hard work and perseverance of successive generations of arts practitioners and supporters, building on past and present arts and cultural policies, such as the Renaissance City Plan two decades ago, and the more recent Arts and Culture Strategic Review (ACSR).

3. The ACSR in 2012 recommended two strategic directions – increasing accessibility of the arts and building excellence in the arts sector. Five years on, our statistics showed an all-time high of over 9,300 ticketed and non-ticketed performing arts activities in 2016, with a record attendance of over 9.2 million. We achieved a new record of 5.1 million in visitorship to our museums and heritage institutions. The 2017 Population Survey on the Arts also showed that 54% of Singaporeans attended arts events and 22% participated in arts activities. 

Role of arts and culture

4. Since ACSR in 2012, the world in which we work, live and play has evolved rapidly. We see an increasingly uncertain and complex global environment, and the emergence of new fault lines, such as between the foreigners and locals, the haves and have-nots, and between people who hold different values. A key task of MCCY is to strengthen our social fabric and unity during these challenging times.

5. The challenges we see today also present opportunities for our arts community, such as the emergence of the sharing and gig economy and the use of technology in both digital and analogue worlds. For example, there is sharing of work space, sharing of images of artefacts, and online collaboration of artists. The arts can be made more accessible to the underserved segments of the population. To tap these opportunities, we have to acquire the capabilities in new technologies. We also want to draw on the power of the arts in building a more caring, cohesive and confident Singapore. Hence, we have embarked on a review of our policies and strategies within the current operating context of the sector.

6. The outcome of the review is Our SG Arts Plan. It will be the roadmap for our policies and initiatives. It aims to support the needs and aspirations of our arts community and chart new directions for Singapore’s arts sector over the next five years.

Highlight of Our SG Arts Plan

7. In drawing up the Plan, NAC reached out to over 700 persons from the arts community, cultural institutions, and government agencies. There was also a three-week public consultation during which members of the public shared their thoughts and feedback about the Plan.

8. The Plan laid out three main directions of NAC.

9. First, Inspire Our People. We support our artists in creating and presenting excellent work. Artists and good art works need audiences – more than the 4 in 10 who currently say they are interested in the arts. To sustain our arts scene, we also need to grow future generations of audiences. An example is our partnership with MOE to design authentic, place-based learning experiences that have local content and links with curriculum. This could include a learning journey to National Gallery Singapore in support of the primary art syllabus or attending a concert at Esplanade with links to the lower secondary music syllabus. The Singapore International Festival of Arts and Singapore Writers Festival are also good examples of extending our offerings to attract audiences of different tastes and preferences. 

10. To do this well, research is vital to help us understand our audiences and the effects that our works have on them. Research and documentation will help us establish quality benchmarks in the various art forms. In addition, we want to cultivate complementary capabilities, for example, in the areas of fundraising and art-related administrative functions. And we want to provide more support for freelancers and independent artists so that they can do their work better and strengthen their careers.

11. Second, Connect Our Communities. The arts can bring people of different backgrounds together and help them step over their social boundaries. First, we want to offer access to opportunities – to everyone in Singapore, to experience a wide range of arts, and to move the needle of those who participate in arts activities from the current 22%. This can be done through artist-led co-creating projects and workshops, volunteerism or art philanthropy. Technology can be an effective enabler to connect artist with artist, artist with audience, and audience with audience. We will encourage the adoption of technology in art making and audience engagement.

12. We will also encourage collaborations between public agencies, corporate sector, and art organisations and intermediaries, in making resources available to artists and to bring art closer to the community, to make our society more inclusive through art. For example, we have 17 arts and culture nodes across Singapore such as Our Tampines Hub, Woodlands Regional Library, and Mapletree Business City, providing arts programmes all year round. We plan to increase the number of such nodes to 22 by 2022.

13. I would like to share the story of Mr Tan Choon Heng, a beneficiary of the Singapore Association for Mental Health. In 2012, after experiencing an art-therapy session where the therapist painted a flower using the dotting technique, Mr Tan was deeply inspired. He soon became a regular participant at the Open Studio sessions, creating art work in Pointilism. He found that the process of art-making helped to stabilise his moods; his hand tremors less; and he was able to handle daily chores better. Mr Tan also made many new friends from different backgrounds which improve his social well-being. Today, he is giving back to the community by being an assistant facilitator himself. Such stories affirm the power of the arts, and the work of our artists.  

14. Third, Position Singapore Globally. Our arts shape our image as a nation in the minds of the global community. Through our arts, we will also actively collaborate with foreign partners, especially those from the region around us.

15. We will develop more international residencies, and more collaborations with international partners. T.H.E. Dance Company, who presented a beautiful dance just before this, is a good example of such efforts. Mr Kuik Swee Boon and his team have toured extensively and brought Singapore dance to Malaysia, Indonesia, China and more.                                                                                        

16. We will maintain our presence at platforms such as Venice Biennale, BIGSOUND, Internationale Tanzmesse, and the International Society for Performing Arts. We will continue to engage our regional partners for knowledge and skills exchange through workshops and residencies. NAC currently has a residency exchange programme for capability development and intercultural exchange with Cemeti Art House in Indonesia, and we hope to have more of such partnerships to provide opportunities for more Singaporean artists to gain international exposure.

Conclusion

17. Our SG Arts Plan will be a “living” plan – one that will continue to evolve. Our conversations with the arts community will not end here, as we work to achieve our shared outcomes – a vibrant, exciting arts scene for our home, and Singapore artists who are loved and treasured by all. 

18. The arts have the power to build a more caring, cohesive and confident Singapore. Like many of you, I have high hopes for art and culture in Singapore. Let us work together to make the arts an integral part of the lives of all Singaporeans. Let us share our love for the arts with many more people in Singapore and beyond. And let us make art the reason for our national pride.

19. Enough said, time for us to put Our SG Art Plan into action. With this, I officially launch Our SG Arts Plan. Thank you very much.
Last Updated: 22 October 2018

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