Arts Festival goes to The Arts House

The Arts House. Big changes are afoot at Arts Festival Limited, the holding company running the Singapore International Festival of Arts (Sifa), which was in the news last week for a public e-mail spat between its two leaders.  -- PHOTO: TH
The Arts House. Big changes are afoot at Arts Festival Limited, the holding company running the Singapore International Festival of Arts (Sifa), which was in the news last week for a public e-mail spat between its two leaders.  -- PHOTO: THE ART HOUSE

BIG changes are afoot at Arts Festival Limited, the holding company running the Singapore International Festival of Arts, which was in the news last week for a public e-mail spat between its two leaders.

On April 1, it merges with The Old Parliament House Limited to manage The Arts House near Empress Place and other arts spaces such as Goodman Arts Centre in Mountbatten and Aliwal Arts Centre in the Beach Road area, now run by The Old Parliament House Limited (TOPH).

A new merged entity will be formed to run the arts festival and these arts spaces. It will be called Arts House Limited and led by Ms Lee Chor Lin, 50, chief executive officer of Arts Festival Limited.

This was announced yesterday by Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong at The Arts House’s 10th anniversary celebration, which was attended by about 600 people.

The budget for the new company is still to be decided but it will likely be more than the $6.5 million given to the Singapore International Festival of Arts from the National Arts Council for the inaugural edition this August. The Old Parliament House received an annual grant of $2 million just to run The Arts House.

The CEO of The Old Parliament House Limited, Colin Goh, 46, will manage the outgoing company’s subsidised arts enrichment programme The Little Arts Academy and charity The Business Times Budding Artists Fund, under a new entity which is still to be named.

Mr Wong hailed The Old Parliament House for making The Arts House an “innovative champion for the arts” with literary programmes featuring local and foreign writers, and outreach to senior citizens through workshops and free film screenings.

The Arts House is in the Civic District and close to major cultural institutions such as the Asian Civilisations Museum, Esplanade - Theatres On The Bay and Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall.

Yesterday, Ms Lee and arts festival director Ong Keng Sen sought to put their differences behind them, with Ms Lee saying: "The show must go on."

Mr Ong, 50, who had made public their disagreements by copying his strongly worded e-mail to Ms Lee to the media and key policy makers, said: "The first year is a precedent-setting one and we need to put collaboration at the centre.’’

He said that he has written his message for the festival brochures and is working on the layout with Ms Lee. He had earlier said that she had kept him out of the loop in the production of the festival brochures.

Ms Lee, 50, said it was too early to decide on changes to The Arts House’s programmes and its current focus on literary events would continue.

However, from next year, there could well be a festival village set up in and around The Arts House during the Singapore International Festival of Arts, providing a place for the arts festival to engage with the community before, after and between performances.

“Watch this space,” she said.

akshitan@sph.com.sg