Michael Chiang helms new free arts magazine and website

New resource features listings, commentaries, profiles and a guide to arts-related topics

If you want to keep abreast of everything going on in the arts world here, there is now a new resource you can tap on.

Launched yesterday, The A List is aimed at not just arts aficionados, but newbies as well. The print and online resource, an initiative by the National Arts Council, features a comprehensive calendar of events, stories on happenings, and introductions to the who's who in the arts here.

Helmed by veteran playwright Michael Chiang as editorial director, The A List takes two forms: a free print magazine, which will be published every two weeks and distributed at public places such as cafes and libraries, and a website.

Just under $2 million has been set aside for the project over the next two years, which includes the cost of pulling together the editorial team as well as designing and producing the website and magazine. Aside from Chiang, the editorial team comprises creative director Tony Law, editor Pamela Ho, associate art director Wang Mei Mei and writer Jo Tan.

Chiang says The A List hopes to reach out to four groups of people: working adults, families, youths and seniors. Each demographic is represented by a different cover on the inaugural issue of the magazine.

The resource is aimed at both seasoned and newly acquainted arts lovers. Chiang says: "If you're already an arts buff, you musn't feel like it's dumbed down, but it musn't be so esoteric that anyone who's not familiar with it won't dare to pick it up. It's a tall order, but that's what the team is hoping to achieve."

Council chief executive Kathy Lai says: "Singapore's arts and culture scene has grown significantly more vibrant over the last decade, with more arts activities added on each year... With the launch of The A List, I hope it will be easier for Singaporeans and visitors alike to navigate the arts and culture scene and not miss out on the fantastic experiences available."

To reach out to such a wide audience, the print version of The A List will feature listings, features, commentaries, profiles and an ABC guide to three arts-related topics.

Chiang says the resource hopes to cover not just headline topics such as the Cultural Medallion, an annual award that is the country's highest cultural honour, and the upcoming Singapore Writers Festival, but also less well-known events.

He adds: "There are a lot of smaller groups that don't get the airtime and press coverage that bigger groups do, so we hope to help provide some sort of platform on which they can be seen."

Such arts groups tell Life! a resource like The A List may be a boon for them.

Founding artistic director Luke Kwek of Our Company, a year-old non-profit theatre company run by volunteers, says: "There are other listing platforms such as Time Out and inSing, but they also cover other events such as food and nightlife. This sounds like it's going to be very focused on the arts."

The 33-year-old is also looking forward to checking out The A List as a theatregoer: "As an amateur practitioner, I'm not always plugged in and sometimes, I miss the really great shows. It's too late to buy tickets or I didn't even know they were going on. A centralised platform like this would be really good for me."

Chiang also hopes to use the platform to throw the spotlight on art trailblazers here. "I'm hoping to acknowledge people who have contributed to the arts. On other platforms, there may be no reason to feature someone who's not newsy, like Goh Choo San," he says.

"But with the ABC guide, I could do a little story about him and introduce him to people who may be completely unaware of who he is." The late Goh, who died in 1987, was a prolific Singaporean choreographer who created numerous works for companies here and overseas.

Both the online and offline versions of The A List are peppered with bold, eye-catching graphics and packaged in an easy-to-read, bite-sized format. Chiang says: "We wanted the approach to be very visual and design-led, so we put in more pictures, graphics and interesting fonts. You get something different every time you turn the page."

Copies of The A List will be available at up to 200 distribution points, including cafes, Sistic ticketing counters, community centres and libraries. The A List website is found at a-list.sg.

lting@sph.com.sg