$10m for Nafa's new campus

The donation from charity Ngee Ann Kongsi for the campus, set to open in 2017, is the largest the art school has received since its founding in 1938

The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts renamed two of its existing galleries in honour of The Ngee Ann Kongsi.
The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts renamed two of its existing galleries in honour of The Ngee Ann Kongsi.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The bulk of a $10-million donation to the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) will go towards the school's urgently needed fourth campus, which will be built over the upcoming Bencoolen MRT station.

The money comes from the charity Ngee Ann Kongsi, which owns Ngee Ann City in Orchard Road. It is the largest donation the art school has received since its founding in 1938.

Nafa announced at a ceremony yesterday that $9.4 million will be used to support the construction of the $35-million building, known as Nafa Campus 4.

When it opens in early 2017, the new building will boast facilities such as state-of-the-art studios and classrooms, easing the school's current space crunch.

Eight of the 12 floors in the new building will belong to Nafa, translating to a floor area of 7,700 sq m, or 20 per cent more space for the school. The other four floors will house machinery and equipment for the MRT station.

The remaining $600,000 of the donation will be set aside for scholarships for full-time diploma students. A total of 36 students will be awarded Ngee Ann Kongsi Talent Scholarships over the next 16 years.

Nafa has also renamed two of its existing galleries - formerly known as Nafa Galleries 1 and 2 - in the foundation's honour. They will now be called The Ngee Ann Kongsi Galleries 1 and 2.

The renaming ceremony yesterday was officiated by Acting Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, who was making his first visit to a private institution since his appointment.

With about 2,400 full-time diploma and degree students, Nafa is currently slightly overcrowded. Its three existing campuses in Bencoolen Street were built to cater to 2,200 students.

To cope with the space crunch, it now rents a building in Victoria Street, whose lease will be up in August next year.

Demand for its programmes has remained strong, and the school projects a student population of 3,300 by 2024.

Choosing to build the new campus on its current spot required "courage", Nafa president Chia Mia Chiang says.

"It was the perfect spot: very close to our existing campuses, right above an MRT. But we had no budget for the project," he recalls.

"Either we be courageous enough to proceed, or just step back and say, 'Too bad. This is a wonderful opportunity, but we can't capitalise on it.' We decided to gather the courage."

In August last year, the school applied to Ngee Ann Kongsi for funding. The foundation approved the request early this year.

Nafa is planning to raise more funds by approaching more foundations. They are also sounding out arts groups for interest to rent some floor space in the building.

Mr Chia says: "If it's really necessary, we will take a bank loan. We will pull out all the stops. This building is crucial for our growth. Without it, we would be limiting our possibilities."

Ngee Ann Kongsi vice-president Richard Lee says the foundation was privileged to be able to play a part in supporting Nafa, Singapore's pioneer art institution.

He says: "For society to keep advancing, we need to have people of different talents and skills, from doctors, lawyers and engineers to artists, musicians and dancers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2015, with the headline '$10m for Nafa's new campus'. Subscribe