$1.5m fund for community arts projects

Mayor- designate of South West District Low Yen Ling (far left) and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong (centre) with the seniors at Thye Hua Kwan Seniors Activity Centre @ Boon Lay at the launch of the WeCare Arts Fund.
Mayor- designate of South West District Low Yen Ling (far left) and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong (centre) with the seniors at Thye Hua Kwan Seniors Activity Centre @ Boon Lay at the launch of the WeCare Arts Fund.PHOTO: NATIONAL ARTS COUNCIL

WeCare Arts Fund will give up to $5,000 for each project by voluntary welfare organisations

Voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) that hoped to run arts projects for their beneficiaries but were put off by the cost, can now tap a $1.5-million fund.

The WeCare Arts Fund, a partnership between the National Arts Council and the five Community Development Councils, was launched yesterday by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong at the Thye Hua Kwan Seniors Activity Centre @ Boon Lay.

To be disbursed over three years, the fund is open to applications from the more than 400 voluntary welfare organisations recognised by the Ministry of Social and Family Development or the National Council of Social Service.

It will give a grant of up to $5,000 a project. Each organisation can apply for up to $10,000 each year. The fund can be used to cover artist fees, materials and other project costs.

On the rationale behind the fund, Mr Wong said yesterday: "We really want to bring arts to the community and bring arts to all Singaporeans, and we think that there is a group, a more disadvantaged and vulnerable group, which can benefit from a more concerted effort to reach out to them through the arts."

The fund was first announced by his ministry during the Budget debate in March. Over the next three years, it expects the fund to result in 300 arts programmes reaching out to at least 2,500 beneficiaries in the social service sector.

Although part of the arts council's ArtReach programme, which aims to promote arts activities in the social service sector, the WeCare fund will be administered by the community development councils. All applications must be made directly to them.

Ms Chua Sock Hwang, deputy director of arts and communities at the arts council, said community development councils are "also interested to see how they could better aggregate the kind of support that they give to VWOs in their district. So there's a good match on how we can come together to develop this WeCare Arts Fund to support their VWOs, to have greater access to arts".

Ms Low Yen Ling, mayor-designate of South West District, said that four organisations in her district, including Lakeside Family Service Centre and Thye Hua Kwan Seniors Activity Centre, have expressed interest in the fund. "They have agreed to tap the fund to create arts programmes as part of the intervention programme to promote health and wellness, to promote integration and to promote rehabilitation for the beneficiaries."

Chief executive officer of Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities Lee Ngak Siang said that the artists who work at the centre are all volunteers. He added: "But if the artists are paid, they can play a bigger role. Now, those who are volunteers come only when they have the time."

Other arts groups and community organisations reacted to the announcement with cautious optimism.

The Arts Fission Company is a contemporary dance group which brings its creative movement-based programme to organisations such as the Apex Day Rehabilitation Centre for the Elderly and NTUC Eldercare centres.

Arts Fission Company's artistic director Angela Liong emphasises that the assessment of proposals should be done by qualified officers. "All these administrators, if given the prerogative to oversee this funding, need to go back to school - they will need a kind of briefing or workshop at least, a knowledge of arts and culture, and what arts and culture can provide to a community."

Ms Ko Siew Huey, co-founder of ArtsWok, a company which promotes arts- based community development, said that the grant figures of $5,000 a project and $10,000 a year are a good start.

She added: "I hope that at some point after three years they will reassess it because $5,000 does determine the scale of the project, and if you want to do a scalable and larger project, then this might be a limitation."

lting@sph.com.sg