A Culture Pass mobile app with sponsored "credits" that allow Singaporeans to buy tickets for arts and cultural events, and more efforts to deepen understanding and appreciation of traditional arts, were called for by Nominated Member of Parliament Terence Ho in his maiden speech yesterday.
Mr Ho is executive director of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra.
He is the first NMP from the arts field who is a formally trained musician and from a traditional arts group.
Speaking in Mandarin, he noted that while the number of arts groups in Singapore had increased from 2,689 in 2013 to 3,162 in 2016, paying audiences had shrunk. Only 1.81 million tickets were sold in 2016, compared with 2.06 million in 2012.
More needs to be done to change the mindset of "pragmatic" Singaporeans to increase their interest in arts and culture so they make it an integral part of their lives, he said.
He suggested that arts education should be part of National Education for Primary 3 and 4 pupils, who should get the chance to watch at least one arts performance a year.
He also mooted the Culture Pass, with free credits that Singaporeans could use to offset the cost of tickets.
In addition, he said traditional arts have an important part to play in creating shared understanding across different communities in Singapore, and suggested setting up think-tanks to research the importance of these arts.
In response, Mr Baey Yam Keng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, said the National Arts Council would build capabilities and enhance research on the traditional arts under its five-year blueprint for the arts, Our SG Arts Plan. For example, Stamford Arts Centre, which was revamped and reopened last year, will house a mix of traditional arts groups from different ethnic communities that would be able to bring these arts to the community.
He added that the ministry and the arts council would consider the Culture Pass "as part of ongoing efforts to grow audiences, and enhance accessibility of arts and culture by leveraging technology".
He said while ticket-buying fell in 2016, that year had the highest attendance at arts and culture events since 2012, thanks to more non-ticketed performances.
Both ticketed and non-ticketed attendance, he added, contribute "to the vibrancy and sustainability of our arts and culture landscape".
He said: "We hope that non-ticketed arts activities will create accessible entry points to the arts, while artists and arts groups will build on this increased awareness and create works that could interest and attract more people to become paying audience."
Mr Tan Hong Ging, 31, marketing manager of Chinese chamber music company Ding Yi, said the proposed pass could help bring in new ticket buyers, but ticketing platforms like Sistic and Peatix will have to be brought on board.