Parliament: Resource centre for freelancers, more public art planned, says Baey Yam Keng

A child peeks out of Down the rabbit, a mixed-media installation by Singapore-based artist Poh Yah See.
A child peeks out of Down the rabbit, a mixed-media installation by Singapore-based artist Poh Yah See.PHOTO: NATIONAL ARTS COUNCIL

SINGAPORE - Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Baey Yam Keng announced plans on Thursday (March 8) for a resource centre to support arts freelancers.

He also said a new website would be launched to promote Singapore music and that more public art installations would be commissioned under the Public Art Trust initiative.

Speaking during the debate on his ministry's budget, he said that to set an example for those hiring arts freelancers, the National Arts Council (NAC) and National Heritage Board will adopt the Ministry of Manpower's Tripartite Standard For Contracting Self-Employed Persons.

However, the arts council would not be able to mediate disputes over payment between other hirers and arts and culture freelancers, including those hirers who might receive funds from NAC, he said. Mr Baey was responding to queries from Mr Ang Hin Kee (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun.

He explained that the arts council could not intervene because it would not be directly engaged in the contract with the freelancers.

"We definitely will encourage our vendors to respect freelancers and to also adopt the measures that we have," said Mr Baey. Later, he added: "This is the first step we are doing, we hope to lead by example and we hope that the society at large, all users, procurers of artistic talent or works will also respect the freelancers' way of the business as part of the overall gig economy that Spore is experiencing."

The Tripartite Standard For Contracting Self-Employed Persons is a set of guidelines on best practices for engaging freelance services and was launched earlier this week, during the debate of the Manpower Ministry's budget.

Mr Baey said that a national resource centre would be set up to support and train arts freelancers, as well as provide resources and services on individual rights and responsibilities, finance and career development. No target date was given for when the centre, which will also be online, would open.

MPs also raised questions on plans to further develop the arts sector and public engagement with the arts. Mr Baey shared plans to promote literary arts in the vernacular languages. All primary and secondary schools in Singapore will receive local literary works in Chinese, Malay and Tamil to enhance their libraries.

To promote local music, next month, the arts council will launch a new website, Hear65. Users can stream music from local artists ranging from Gentle Bones to Kit Chan, and also access crowd-sourced reviews.

In addition, the Public Art Trust will commission two new signature works of art in community spaces to commemorate Singapore's Bicentennial next year. Thereafter, one signature work of public art will be commissioned each year.

The trust, established by the National Arts council in 2014 with $10 million in seed funding from the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, aims to make art part of the urban landscape and to increase public engagement with art.

In his speech, Mr Baey also said more than 30 sites have been secured for future public art installations, including spaces in town centres and sports centres in Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Bukit Panjang, Clementi and Woodlands. The list of sites will be released in the middle of this year and artists are encouraged to submit proposals for site-specific work through the Public Art Trust website (