$1.5 million fund launched for voluntary welfare organisations to run arts projects

Voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) which run arts projects for its beneficiaries can now tap on a $1.5 million fund to support such programmes.

The WeCare Arts Fund, a partnership between the National Arts Council and the five Community Development Councils, was launched on Tuesday 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 over 400 VWOs 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 per project. Each organisation can apply for up to $10,000 to use 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: "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." It was first announced by his ministry at the Budget debate in March.

Over the next three years, the ministry 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 services sector, the WeCare fund will be administered by the community development councils of the different districts in Singapore, and all applications must be made directly to them.

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 already expressed interest in the fund.

She said: "They have agreed to tap on the fund to create arts programmes as part of the intervention programme to promote health and wellness, to promote integration and to promotion rehabilitation for the beneficiaries."

Chief executive officer of Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities Dr Lee Ngak Siang said that the artists who currently 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 only come 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 own creative movement-based programme to organisations such as the Apex Day Rehabilitation Centre for the Elderly and NTUC Eldercare centres. Artistic director Angela Liong emphasises that the assessment of proposals should be done by qualified officers with a knowledge of "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, says that the grant figures of $5,000 per project and $10,000 per year are a good start.

However, she added: "I do 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."