Donations to Singapore's arts sector drop to $50m in 2019, but cash donations at highest in three years

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong spoke of the need for the arts community to adjust in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM NATIONAL ARTS COUNCIL SINGAPORE/YOUTUBE

SINGAPORE - Donations to Singapore's arts and cultural scene dipped to $50.1 million last year, although cash donations went up to their highest in three years.

The National Arts Council (NAC) announced the latest figures at the annual Patron of the Arts Awards ceremony, which was streamed online on Wednesday (Aug 5) over Facebook and YouTube and recognised 103 organisations and 275 individuals.

Total contributions last year fell from $57.4 million in 2018, when giving rose for the first time in three years. But cash donations last year went up to $40.5 million, a 23 per cent increase from the year before.

In-kind giving fell from 2018's record high of $24.5 million to $9.6 million last year.

Newly-minted Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong spoke of the need for the arts community to adjust in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Covid-19 has changed how we create, consume and engage with the arts and culture," said Mr Tong, who is also Second Minister for Law, during the virtual ceremony.

"The arts community will need to transform and adapt quickly so that they continue to connect effectively with their audiences and also cultivate new ones."

Besides the $55 million Arts and Culture Resilience Package to support the arts community during the crisis, he said his ministry was also working with stakeholders to speed up the adoption of technology and come up with more innovative ideas for content creation and presentation.

NAC launched a broad-based online fundraising campaign, A Covid-19 Rally For Singapore's Arts, in April, which will run until December this year. It said in a statement that about 40 arts groups have raised almost $200,000 so far under the campaign via the platform.

The NAC also praised efforts like Malay theatre group Teater Ekamatra's virtual fundraising challenge Amboi! to deal with show cancellations caused by the pandemic.

The company hopes to raise at least $10,000, after which the funds will be matched dollar-for-dollar by a private patron and then doubled by the Cultural Matching Fund. If the target is met, the company will present a mini online festival to thank donors.

The NAC observed that there has been a rise in larger donations, with the number of Distinguished Patrons of the Arts, the highest tier of recognition, going up from 24 to 30.

To reach that tier, an organisation must donate at least $1.5 million and an individual $100,000 or more in a year.

Many of the major contributions last year went towards developing arts infrastructure. The Ngee Ann Group, which consists of The Ngee Ann Kongsi and Ngee Ann Development, pledged $55 million, its largest contribution in two decades.

Its beneficiaries included Lasalle College of the Arts, which was able to establish a new 12-storey building, and theatre group Wild Rice.

Telecommunications company Singtel donated $10 million to the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay's upcoming 550-seater Waterfront Theatre.

Seventeen companies, including UOL Group, Keppel Corporation and Singapore Press Holdings, and 23 individuals received the Patron of the Arts award.

It is given to companies who give between $300,000 and $1,499,999, and individuals who give between $50,000 and $99,999.

More than 100 organisations and individuals were recognised as first-time patrons.

NAC chief executive Rosa Daniel said: "The patrons' contributions affirm our society's recognition of the positive impact of the arts and form the cornerstone of a sustainable arts ecosystem.

"Patronage will be critical as the sector enters an extended period of uncertainty with the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy, but working together, the arts community and their supporters will ensure we emerge stronger."

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