Museums, festivals, arts groups can tap funds to go digital

The $55 million arts and culture package will also defray the cost of rent, wages and training

Freelance multimedia artist Brian Gothong Tan's multi-disciplinary Esplanade-commissioned theatre production Lost Cinema 20/20 (above) - which was cancelled last month - has benefited from the Digitalisation Fund, which covered the cost of filming th
Freelance multimedia artist Brian Gothong Tan's multi-disciplinary Esplanade-commissioned theatre production Lost Cinema 20/20 (above) - which was cancelled last month - has benefited from the Digitalisation Fund, which covered the cost of filming the performance that will now be streamed online.PHOTO: CRISPIAN CHAN

The coronavirus pandemic shows little sign of abating, but the show will go on for the Singapore Heritage Festival in June - with a digital twist.

Instead of hopping around the island, festivalgoers can turn on their computers and experience the festival from the safety of their homes, through virtual tours and online culinary workshops.

The heritage festival is one of several projects that will benefit from a new Digitalisation Fund for the arts and culture sector, which has been hit hard by measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Theatre groups, orchestras and many others have had to cancel their events, chalking up losses in excess of $2.6 million.

The fund is part of the Government's $55 million Arts and Culture Resilience Package, which will also defray the cost of rent, wages and training, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu in Parliament yesterday.

The fund will help make museums' exhibitions and collections accessible on virtual platforms, and support the digital presentation of large events, such as the Singapore Writers Festival in November and Singapore Art Week in January, by, for example, commissioning new works.

Additionally, it will support a Digital Presentation Grant for the Arts, which offers groups or individuals up to $20,000 for each project. These would be presented in a digital form, or via a digital medium, from next month onwards.

"While some ideas may be possible to execute only after the 'circuit breaker' measures," said Ms Fu during a debate on the supplementary budget, referring to the tighter social distancing restrictions, "I encourage arts and culture groups and practitioners to prepare and submit their grant proposals now, so that they can bring their best work to Singaporeans once the situation improves."

The ministry aims to support more than 200 new digital projects through the fund.

The $55 million support package was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in Parliament last month as part of the Resilience Budget. This is on top of the $1.6 million that had earlier been set aside to help arts groups improve their skills and ease rental and associated costs amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The latest support package covers three other key measures.

One, the enhanced Jobs Support Scheme will be extended to give eligible firms a 75 per cent wage subsidy for this month, on the first $4,600 of gross monthly wages of each local employee on the payroll.

 
 

Two, eligible tenants of MCCY-owned properties will have their rent waived for two months. Non-residential tenants on government-owned properties that do not qualify will have it waived for a month.

Three, the enhanced Capability Development Scheme for the Arts, which offers training grants, will provide more funding. The National Arts Council's major and seed grant companies can apply for up to $20,000, while other arts and culture organisations can get up to $6,000. These are double the amounts announced earlier.

Individuals can apply for up to $1,000, up from $600.

Applications close on June 30.

All this comes on top of other government measures such as the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme.

Ms Fu also outlined efforts to further support employment in the sports sector, as part of the SGUnited Jobs Initiative. She noted that more than 500 temporary job opportunities have been identified.

 
 
 

Additionally, her ministry has been working to build up the range of Continuing Coach Education courses to improve the skills of coaches and instructors.

It will also set aside $100,000 for the Coach Development Grant, up from $30,000 in previous years.

Freelance multimedia artist Brian Gothong Tan, 39, who has seen his income fall by about 70 per cent due to Covid-19, is happy with the support measures.

His multi-disciplinary theatre production, Lost Cinema 20/20 - an Esplanade commission which was cancelled last month, has benefited from the Digitalisation Fund. The fund covered the cost of filming the performance, which will be streamed online.

Mr Tan, who also plans to make use of the Capability Development Scheme for the Arts to enrol in a 3D software course, said: "We're all worried. We don't really know when the virus is going to go away and how we will recover from (its impact).

"Now we know the value of being online - it's not a luxury anymore, it's a necessity. It's time to band together and rise up."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2020, with the headline 'Museums, festivals, arts groups can tap funds to go digital'. Subscribe