Record $53.8m donated to the arts

Over 220 patrons honoured; number of donors down but total contributions up 67%

More than 220 arts patrons who donated a record $53.8 million last year were honoured last night at the National Arts Council's annual Patron of the Arts awards.

While the number of patrons had fallen from the previous batch of 344 awardees, total contributions had increased by almost 67 per cent.

Professor Chan Heng Chee, chairman of the council and Ambassador-At-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, gave out the awards at Capitol Theatre. Thanking the donors, she said: "Giving to the arts - whether in cash, in kind or in that scarce commodity called time - strengthens the sense of collective ownership of our arts and culture."

The awards are divided into different tiers for individuals and corporations. For example, an individual is honoured as a Friend of the Arts if he gave $10,000 to $49,999 in a year, and an organisation is recognised as a Distinguished Patron of the Arts for donations above $1.5 million.

Now in its 32nd edition, the ceremony had a new segment: the SG50 Arts Patron Award, conferred on patrons who have contributed more than $1.5 million in the last five years or have received 10 or more Distinguished Patron of the Arts awards.

Twenty-one foundations and corporations received it, including Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), which has been honoured 28 times since 1987. Ms Ginney Lim, SPH's general counsel and general manager of the SPH Foundation, said: "SPH believes in taking the arts everywhere with inspiring events that enable people from all walks of life to experience a wide range of artistic expressions."

Another recipient was telecoms company M1, which has backed several arts projects, including the long-standing M1 Singapore Fringe Festival for more than 10 years.

Prof Chan also announced changes to the Cultural Matching Fund introduced in November 2013. This $200 million fund provides dollar-for-dollar matching grants for cash donations to the arts and heritage sector. From this month, the lifetime cap for each organisation will be raised from the current $10 million to $15 million.

One of the awardees was Ms Chen Liping, 50, who gave $100,000 to the Nanyang Academy of Fine Art's fund-raising golf tournament last year. The executive director of restaurant business Pavilion Holdings told The Straits Times: "The Cultural Matching Fund and the tax breaks it offers impacted my decision to give to the arts. I feel the Government is giving such a big push to the arts and, as an individual, I should play a part too."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2015, with the headline 'Record $53.8m donated to the arts'. Print Edition | Subscribe