Stamford Arts Centre to get $7m new look

The conserved building will focus on traditional arts and have new features such as a multi-purpose hall and a shared studio

Artist's impression of the new Stamford Arts Centre in Waterloo Street.
Artist's impression of the new Stamford Arts Centre in Waterloo Street.PHOTO: MULTIPLY ARCHITECTS

The ageing Stamford Arts Centre in Waterloo Street will reopen as a centre focusing on traditional arts, managed by the Arts House Limited, around the middle of next year.

The conserved building will have new features including a new multi-purpose hall that can fit between 120 and 160 people, a shared studio and an artist-in-residency space.

The redevelopment plans also prioritise accessibility - lifts will be installed, pathways added to connect its three separate buildings and an external side wall removed to increase visibility from outside.

There will also be shops and a food-and-beverage outlet on the first floor, occupying not more than 20 per cent of the entire space.

The project is expected to cost about $7 million, said Mr Baey Yam Keng, Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth, who unveiled the artist's impression of the new centre to reporters yesterday outside the current building.

He was joined by Mr Paul Tan, deputy chief executive of the National Arts Council (NAC), and Ms Sarah Martin, chief executive of Arts House Limited.

Arts management company Arts House Limited runs other arts spaces such as The Arts House and Aliwal Arts Centre, and presents the Singapore International Festival of Arts.

From August this year, it will also take over the running of Victoria Theatre, Victoria Concert Hall and the Drama Centre from the Esplanade.

Mr Baey told reporters that the ministry, along with the NAC and Arts House Limited, is looking at creating more spaces for local and international collaborations, and curating programmes to facilitate this.

There are also plans to engage the local community in the Waterloo Street area.

"Stakeholders in the precinct have rich cultural offerings. They could also be part of the art-making process. Arts House Limited will be reaching out to them to work with the artists here to co-create new works which are relevant to the Singapore audience," he said.

Redevelopment works, undertaken by Multiply Architects, will begin next month.

NAC is looking to have eight to 10 tenants in the building.

The open call for arts groups interested in being housed in the revamped centre will start in the second or third quarter of this year.

Results will be released in the first quarter of next year.

The building has been a fixture in Waterloo Street for almost a century.

It was originally a Japanese school in the 1920s and was the site for several schools, including Stamford Primary School, until 1986.

In 1988, it was restored as Stamford Arts Centre under the Arts Housing Scheme by NAC.

There were eight arts groups housed in the old centre, including dance troupe Bhaskar's Arts Academy and theatre company The Theatre Practice. All have moved out since the end of last year.

NAC says the new centre is open to traditional artists as well as contemporary artists who tap on traditional forms.

Norhaizad Adam, 30, artistic director of dance company P7:1SMA, which is known for its contemporary take on Malay dance, is hoping to set up a permanent studio at Stamford Arts Centre. The group does not have a space of its own.

Norhaizad lauds its location, near landmarks such as Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, the Singapore Art Museum and several arts schools.

"The building is very charming. It relates to the works we do as traditionally trained artists who also do contemporary dance works," he says.

Dedric Wong, 30, general manager and assistant conductor of Ding Yi Music Company, hopes his group will get a space that can fit the Chinese chamber music ensemble's 20 musicians and five full- time staff.

Currently, the company has two separate spaces in Goodman Arts Centre, which means that its musicians have to run from one building to the next to print scores.

Says Wong: "This is a very vibrant area. We look forward to doing collaborations here."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2017, with the headline 'Stamford Arts Centre to get $7m new look'. Print Edition | Subscribe