NAC's Major Company funding scheme

Arts grant for 4 new entrants

The companies formerly on NAC's Seed Grant scheme will use the larger grants to create new works and expand outreach

Four arts companies have received grants from the National Arts Council (NAC) under the Major Company Scheme for the first time this year.

The new entrants are Mandarin theatre company Young People's Performing Arts Ensemble, photography and film arts space Objectifs Centre, literary arts group Sing Lit Station and cross-cultural music company SAtheCollective.

Earlier this month, NAC announced a total of 28 companies, which will receive funding from this month to March 2021 under the Major Company Scheme.

Of the groups that received this grant in 2016, only one, wind ensemble Philharmonic Winds, did not get the grant this year. NAC declined to give specifics of why the group was unsuccessful, but said: "As the Major Company scheme is competitive with the bar for companies being raised across all forms, NAC supports applications that best achieve our strategic priorities and the Scheme's objectives."

The four new entrants - all formerly on the arts council's Seed Grant meant to help new and emerging arts groups - say the larger grant from the Major Company Scheme will go towards creating new works and expanding outreach to different sectors of the public.

The Major Company Scheme is a three-year funding scheme to support the professional and artistic development of registered arts organisations here while the Seed Grant is meant to help arts groups formalise their operations.

Only one recipient of the Seed Grant was announced this year - chamber orchestra Resound Collective. The Seed Grant is offered for a maximum of three years.

Non-profit literary group Sing Lit Station used the National Arts Council's Seed Grant from 2016 to March this year to support projects such as Sing Lit Cloud, where printers installed at different locations around the island can be used to print writing from local authors. PHOTO: SING LIT STATION

Some Seed Grant recipients from 2016 are on hiatus, while at least one former recipient, the Poetry Festival Singapore (formerly National Poetry Festival), was unsuccessful in its application for the Major Company Scheme. However, festival director Eric Tinsay Valles says the annual festival will go ahead in July thanks to a different grant from NAC and private donations.

Apart from the Major Company Scheme and Seed Grant, NAC also offers eight other types of funding.

NAC stopped releasing individual grant figures in 2017 but, according to its website, is spending close to $16 million in the 2019 financial year on all 59 arts companies under the Major Company and Seed Grant schemes. This number includes existing recipients of grants given for the funding cycle from April 2017 to March next year.

The new entries to the Major Company Scheme say they will prioritise the development of new audiences and building various capabilities in the arts.

Objectifs will use the grant in "presenting and nurturing original voices in visual storytelling" through public programmes and developmental platforms such as artist residencies, says centre director Emmeline Yong.

SAtheCollective and Young People's Performing Arts Ensemble hope this will give them more resources to reach audiences here and abroad.

For starters, theatre-maker Ma Gyap Sen of the Young People's Performing Arts Ensemble says her company is staging monthly shows of its signature Chinese Cross Talk series, aiming to make this traditional style popular among younger audiences.

"We trust that, through cross talk, one will get to discover the beauty of the Chinese language and Singapore culture," says Ms Ma. "More funds means we can have more manpower in making our arts known more widely among Singaporeans."

The grant allays Sing Lit Station's concerns about staffing and overheads. With this grant, it will add one more full-time employee to its existing staff of three and expand its programmes.

Also on the cards are workshops for underserved audiences, such as prison inmates.

Sing Lit Station director Joshua Ip adds: "Now that the Major Grant lets us worry less about paying every last rent check or utilities bill, we can also free up more staff capacity to do more structured fund raising, and open up corporate or private streams of income to reduce our reliance on government grants in the long-term."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2019, with the headline 'Arts grant for 4 new entrants'. Print Edition | Subscribe