A patron's big gift to the arts

The Intercultural Theatre Institute’s Stephen Riady Master Chair in Beijing Opera is named after Dr Stephen Riady (above).
The Intercultural Theatre Institute’s Stephen Riady Master Chair in Beijing Opera is named after Dr Stephen Riady (above). PHOTO: COURTESY OF DR STEPHEN RIADY

Dr Stephen Riady's $1 million donation to the Intercultural Theatre Institute is believed to be the largest sum given by an individual to a small arts organisation here

The Intercultural Theatre Institute (ITI) is naming a chair after real estate company OUE's executive chairman Stephen Riady, who donated $1 million to the performing arts school.

The Stephen Riady Master Chair in Beijing Opera is an acknowledgement of the largest donation from an individual donor to an independent arts organisation in Singapore.

The National Arts Council said it has no records of an individual donor gifting this amount to a small arts organisation since it started tracking donations for its Patron of the Arts award in 1983.

Dr Riady, 59, said in a statement: "The performing arts play a vital role in fostering creativity and building appreciation for a country's culture. Over the years, ITI has played a unique role in training contemporary theatre artists that draw on Asian traditional art forms and I am pleased to support their efforts.

"I hope this gift will contribute to the development of Singapore's arts and cultural sector and the broader community."

The gift, with dollar-for-dollar matching from the Government's Cultural Matching Fund, means ITI will receive a $2 million windfall. The institute's co-founder and director Thirunalan Sasitharan, 61, said in a statement: "This level of support for arts education is most significant and means the world to ITI."

ITI chairman Arun Mahizhnan added: "Dr Riady's gift will have a transformative impact on not just ITI. It will also send a strong signal that arts and culture is vital to our community and society at large, especially in these times."

Since the institute was founded in 2000 by late theatre doyen Kuo Pao Kun and Sasitharan, some 64 theatre practitioners from 17 countries have undergone its three-year practice-based, professional actor training programme, the Professional Diploma in Intercultural Theatre (Acting).

Among its alumni is actress Yeo Yann Yann, who was recently nominated for a Golden Horse award for Best Actress for her work in director Anthony Chen's new film, Wet Season.

Beijing opera is a compulsory module for students, alongside three other traditional Asian art forms: Noh theatre from Japan, Wayang Wong from Indonesia and Kutiyattam from India.

There have been other individual donors who have given large sums to the arts. Among the largest gifts in recent years was hedge fund manager Danny Yong's $5 million gift to the National Gallery Singapore in 2015.

Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2019, with the headline 'A patron's big gift to the arts'. Print Edition | Subscribe