SINGAPORE - Donations to Singapore's arts and cultural scene went up for the first time in three years, with in-kind giving hitting an all-time high of $24.5 million.
In all, donors gave $57.4 million last year compared to $51.6 million in 2017, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu announced on Wednesday night (July 17) at the annual Patron of the Arts awards organised by the National Arts Council (NAC).
Ms Fu also highlighted a $1 million pledge by hedge fund founder Danny Yong, 47, saying it will be used to kick-start a new NAC initiative to help arts groups grow philanthropic support.
At the event in Equarius Hotel in Sentosa, Ms Fu conferred awards on 383 patrons - 101 organisations and 282 individuals - one of the highest in the 36 years of the awards.
The in-kind contributions were lauded by Ms Fu, who cited, among others, JCDecaux Singapore's sponsorship of media spaces at bus shelters to promote local arts events and Orchard Turn Developments offering space to home-grown artists like photographer Charmaine Poh to showcase their work at mall Ion Orchard.
"The value of the in-kind contributions received was almost two times more than 2017 and this highlights how our arts organisations and patrons take an innovative approach to their philanthropic efforts," she said.
She added that the NAC hopes to do more for nascent arts groups, helping them develop capabilities, governance frameworks and reach more donors.
To this end, she cited Mr Yong, who is chief investment officer of Dymon Asia Capital and the founder of Yong Hon Kong Foundation.
The $1 million he pledged will be used to start an initiative to give short-term support and equip arts groups with the skills to sustain their work and fund-raising efforts. It will be launched in the first quarter of 2020, the NAC said in a statement without elaborating.
Mr Yong said: "The initiative will enable arts organisations and professionals to hone their craft and flourish, ensuring our arts ecosystem gets the continuity it needs in the years to come."
Noting that art transcends boundaries, he said it enables "us to speak a common language regardless of our background in Singapore".
Six corporations and 18 individuals received the Distinguished Patron of the Arts award, which is for corporate donors who give $1.5 million or more and individuals who give $100,000 or more in a year.
Among the six corporate donors was United Overseas Bank (UOB), which has received the award for 15 years in a row. Its programmes include UOB Heartbeat, which focuses on art, children and education, and UOB Painting of the Year, Singapore's longest-running art competition.
Ms Kris Tan Lay Peng, founder of the non-profit Kris Foundation, received the Distinguished Patron of the Arts award for the first time. She made donations to the National Gallery Singapore, Singapore Symphony Orchestra and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. She had previously received the Patron of the Arts award six times.
The 57-year-old, who plays the violin, viola, cello and piano, said of her love for music: "When certain emotions are ineffable, music allows you to communicate them directly, unfettered, because it is an area in the arts where you have to be vulnerable and transparent in your expression. It is also an area of the arts where appearances do not define you."
Twenty-six companies, including JCDecaux, Orchard Turn Developments and Singapore Press Holdings, and 23 individuals received the Patron of the Arts award.
It is given to corporations which donate between $300,000 and $1,499,999, and individuals who donate between $50,000 and $99,999.