Growing audiences for Singapore arts a key priority in new 5-year plan from National Arts Council

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu speaking during the launch of Our SG Arts Plan at Our Tampines Hub on Oct 19, 2018. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - Growing audiences for the arts will be a priority for the National Arts Council, according to a new five-year arts plan launched on Friday (Oct 19) by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu at Our Tampines Hub.

The plan, called Our SG Arts Plan, charts new directions for the literary, visual and performing arts in Singapore and lists eight key areas that the NAC will focus on, which include increasing support for freelancers, promoting Singapore art overseas, strengthening research in the arts sector and using technology in art-making and outreach.

Through the new five-year plan, the NAC hopes that the arts will energise and excite Singaporeans, as well as bring together diverse communities. It also hopes Singapore art will be appreciated by audiences and critics both at home and overseas.

Ms Fu said that with the emergence of new fault lines between foreigners and locals, the haves and have-nots and people who hold different values, one of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's tasks is to strengthen Singapore's social fabric.

"We also want to draw on the power of the arts in building a more caring, cohesive and confident Singapore," said Ms Fu.

She added that with the emergence of the sharing and gig economy and the increased use of technology, "the arts can be made more accessible to under-served segments of the population".

Our SG Arts Plan follows the three Renaissance City Plans, from 2000, which outlined the strategies to make Singapore a "Distinctive Global City for the Arts", followed by the Arts And Culture Strategic Review (ACSR), launched in 2012, which resulted in an injection of $300 million into the culture sector from 2012 to 2016.

  • 8 key priorities of the Our Sg Arts Plan

  • 1. Strengthen the National Arts Council's role in leading and championing the arts in Singapore

    2. Grow audiences using research and data analytics

    3. Build diverse capabilities in the arts sector, for example, in technical theatre and arts management

    4. Increase support for freelancers

    5. Use digital technology to improve art-making and outreach efforts

    6. Strengthen research in the arts sector

    7. Strengthen programme design to maximise impact of the arts on society, while using the arts to bring people together

    8. Promote Singapore art overseas.

Growing audiences is of particular concern as the NAC said ticketed attendance of arts events declined by 12 per cent from 2.06 million in 2012 to 1.81 million in 2016, even as more people seem to be attending arts events.

According to the Population Survey On The Arts 2017, 54 per cent of Singaporeans attended at least one arts event in the past year, which is up from only 40 per cent in 2013. This could mean that Singaporeans are attending free arts events, but unwilling to pay for ticketed ones.

Mrs Rosa Daniel, chief executive officer of the NAC, said the council "hopes to have deeper engagement with existing audiences and to grow new audiences" and will do so through more targeted strategies.

These strategies include using research and data analytics to understand the preferences and lifestyles of various demographics in Singapore including students, the elderly and persons with disabilities.

The NAC will also continue to nurture audiences from a young age by working with the Ministry of Education, and other key partners such as pre-schools and the arts community.

Responding to the push to grow audiences, chief executive of the National Gallery Singapore Chong Siak Ching said: "Strengthening audience research and leveraging digital technology will be key in our next chapter of engaging the public and making art a more integral part of their everyday lives."

While the general sentiment of the arts community is that data collection to grow audiences is important, some worry that too much emphasis has been placed on ticketed audiences.

Assistant Professor Hoe Su Fern, from the arts and culture management programme at the Singapore Management University, who organised a session for members of the public to respond to the draft plan, said: "Many participants highlighted that not everyone can afford a ticket, and we should not simply equate ticket-paying audiences to a more deeply engaged audience."

In particular, she said many young participants felt there might be arts lovers who enjoy local music or local literature but may not attend ticketed events. "We need to understand their behaviour and consumption patterns and find out why they are not willing to pay for a ticket."

Artists were also encouraged by the NAC's plan to take local works overseas.

The NAC said it intends to achieve this through partnerships with international festivals, presenters, residences and other arts councils and institutions.

Ms Lim Sim Lin, arts administrator of experimental theatre group Emergency Stairs, said this opens up "possible opportunities to learn, workshop, practise and present overseas".

But she added that the NAC needs to ensure that this priority area is "inclusive and available for all", especially smaller and emerging companies and collectives.

"These are often nimble enough to travel, and also the most in need of support to travel and grow," she added.

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