Esplanade names new CEO

Mr Benson Puah (above)  has helmed Esplanade Co since 1998. He will be replaced by Ms Yvonne Tham, who came on board in 2014.
Mr Benson Puah (above) has helmed Esplanade Co since 1998. He will be replaced by Ms Yvonne Tham, who came on board in 2014. PHOTOS: ESPLANADE - THEATRES ON THE BAY Black
Mr Benson Puah has helmed Esplanade Co since 1998. He will be replaced by Ms Yvonne Tham (above), who came on board in 2014.
Mr Benson Puah has helmed Esplanade Co since 1998. He will be replaced by Ms Yvonne Tham (above), who came on board in 2014. PHOTOS: ESPLANADE - THEATRES ON THE BAY Black

On Aug 1, assistant chief executive Yvonne Tham will take over organisation led by Benson Puah for 20 years

Esplanade Co's assistant chief executive officer Yvonne Tham is moving into the top role, as current chief executive officer Benson Puah steps down after 20 years at the helm.

Ms Tham will be appointed CEO-designate on April 1 and CEO on Aug 1, according to a press release from Esplanade Co yesterday. Esplanade Co is a registered charity and not-for-profit organisation that operates the performing arts complex Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay.

Esplanade presents about 3,000 performances a year, 70 per cent of which are not ticketed. The complex includes indoor venues such as the 1,600-seat Esplanade Concert Hall; the 2,000-seat Esplanade Theatre and two studio spaces that seat about 200 each, plus the Outdoor Theatre facing the Marina Bay Waterfront.

Mr Puah, 61, has been the face of Esplanade Co since July 1998, the year construction began on the superstructure. During his term, Esplanade established its annual calendar of programmes with performing arts staples such as the da:ns festival as well as 10 editions of the Mosaic Music Festival. Other ongoing annual features include Huayi - Chinese Festival of Arts, Pesta Raya and Kalaa Utsavam, as well as The Studios platform for local theatre groups to stage other works.

He told The Straits Times that he has not made any decisions about his future plans "but I would, of course, want to take a long break to spend time with family".

"I haven't really had much time to think about my plans as my focus is entirely on Esplanade to ensure that I do all I can to support and enable Yvonne and the team as they lead Esplanade to the next stage of growth," he says, adding that he has worked with Ms Tham for many years. "She has my absolute trust, confidence and support."

As we look ahead to the next stage, we will continue to encourage the arts for social good, create more programmes and access for the young and seniors, and look to reaching new audiences. ''

ESPLANADE CO'S ASSISTANT CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER YVONNE THAM, on making the arts complex more inclusive

Ms Tham, 43, came on board in June 2014 as assistant CEO of the company. She has extensive experience in arts and culture policy and management.

She was deputy CEO at the National Arts Council from 2010 to 2014 and before that, director of the arts and heritage division of the-then Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (now the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth).

From 2002 to 2009, she was involved in developing policies such as the Renaissance City plans, which provided blueprints for the development of the arts, culture and heritage sector in Singapore. She was also involved in the setting up of the School of the Arts, the Design Singapore Council and the National Gallery.

She read English at the University of Cambridge, where she also completed her M.Phil in American literature. She has a master's in art business from the Sotheby's Institute of Art.

Esplanade is expanding as Ms Tham takes over, with a new 550-seat waterfront theatre slated to be built by 2021. The new theatre, she says, will enable Esplanade to showcase a wider range of shows and to commission more works with Singapore artists and regional partners.

Another area of focus for her is making the arts complex more inclusive in its physical space and programmes. She says: "As we look ahead to the next stage, we will continue to encourage the arts for social good, create more programmes and access for the young and seniors, and look to reaching new audiences."

In a statement, Esplanade Co's chairman Lee Tzu Yang thanked Mr Puah for his "visionary leadership and immense contributions to Esplanade", and added: "We are confident that Yvonne will build upon the firm foundation that Esplanade has established in the past 15 years and lead our arts centre in its next phase of growth, fulfilling its mission to inspire audiences and enrich lives through the arts."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2018, with the headline 'Esplanade names new CEO'. Print Edition | Subscribe