SG50 helps boost local arts and culture

The opening of arts and heritage centres last year, such as the National Gallery Singapore (left) and the Indian Heritage Centre (above), contributed to the record number of visitors to museums and heritage institutions during the year.
The opening of arts and heritage centres last year, such as the National Gallery Singapore (above) and the Indian Heritage Centre, contributed to the record number of visitors to museums and heritage institutions during the year.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
The opening of arts and heritage centres last year, such as the National Gallery Singapore (left) and the Indian Heritage Centre (above), contributed to the record number of visitors to museums and heritage institutions during the year.
The opening of arts and heritage centres last year, such as the National Gallery Singapore and the Indian Heritage Centre (above), contributed to the record number of visitors to museums and heritage institutions during the year.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

50th-year special, other annual events lift 2015 visitor figures; donations up

The arts and culture sector received a big boost from SG50 last year.

The number of visitors to museums and heritage institutions reached an all-time high, and donations to the arts more than doubled last year.

About 3.8 million people visited the national museums and heritage institutions, up from 3 million in 2014. And 6.2 million people attended free heritage events, an increase of just over one million from 2014.

Individual and corporate giving also surpassed $150 million last year, more than double the amount in 2014.

This is according to the latest Singapore Cultural Statistics released yesterday by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).

"SG50 was a good year for the arts and culture sector," said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu in a statement.

The report noted that there were, on average, 23 arts performances and 72 visual arts exhibitions daily last year.There was also an all-time high of 1,041 visual arts exhibitions.

Said Ms Fu: "I hope that beyond SG50, Singaporeans will continue to support the arts and culture. Together, we can build a vibrant and rich arts and culture scene for all Singaporeans."

The opening of the National Gallery Singapore last November, focusing on Singapore and South-east Asian art, made a splash in the arts and cultural landscape.

It was credited by MCCY as one of the reasons for the boost in museum visitorship. Its high-profile corporate sponsors, such as United Overseas Bank and Singtel, also sweetened the rosy picture of arts and culture philanthropy in Singapore.

"This positive response from the public has been very heartening," said the gallery's chief executive Chong Siak Ching.

"We hope that visitors, young or old, will find inspiration in our exhibitions and spaces and be motivated to return time and again."

Heritage institutions made a mark as well, including the Indian Heritage Centre which opened in Campbell Lane in May last year.

The Malay Heritage Centre saw its visitorship double to 445,186 - a number that puts it onsimilar footing with the Asian Civilisations Museum (349,587) and Peranakan Museum (475,728). Its diverse programming last year included Budi Daya, which incorporated historical artefacts, as well as contemporary and performance art.

MCCY said more people bought tickets for performing arts events last year, while non-ticketed attendance stayed relatively unchanged.

While SG50 saw an increase in special events such as the popular SG50 Concert Series in the Park organised by the National Parks Board, annual events such as the Singapore Night Festival, organised by the National Heritage Board, also drew the crowds.

Outdoor gear store Camper's Corner in Waterloo Street has been part of the late-night festival yearly since 2013, organising activities such as art installations and film screenings.

Said owner Calvin Tay, 52: "Our location is a little isolated. But during the Singapore Night Festival, we not only get youngsters but they also bring their parents and end up hanging out at the shop."

He added: "We need more of these kinds of events in different locations. The Singapore Biennale this year is a good example."

Arts and heritage lovers echo this sentiment, asking for more and better offerings as Singapore moves beyond SG50.

Mr Keith Koh, 29, a manager in the travel industry, wants to see more heritage-related events.

"They shouldn't die down after SG50. Heritage has the potential to connect with people and democratise the arts and culture scene. We shouldn't just have the highbrow stuff. That's important."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2016, with the headline 'SG50 helps boost local arts and culture'. Print Edition | Subscribe