Two artists seek arts community NMP nomination

Dr Felicia Low (left) and Dr Woon Tien Wei announced they would be submitting their names to represent the arts sector as NMPs, on June 24, 2018.
Dr Felicia Low (left) and Dr Woon Tien Wei announced they would be submitting their names to represent the arts sector as NMPs, on June 24, 2018.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - Two artists are seeking to represent the arts sector as Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) for the upcoming 2½-year term.

Their names will be submitted to Parliament before the July 6 deadline, after an online exercise to gauge the community's support for the two candidates.

At a townhall on Sunday (June 24), Dr Woon Tien Wei and Dr Felicia Low made their announcement to about 90 people from the arts community.

Dr Woon, 43, is a curator at Post-Museum, an arts group that explores how people can "make and remake the city". One of the group's projects he is involved in is the Bukit Brown Index, a collection of texts, objects and art works from the campaign to save Bukit Brown.

Dr Woon is a lecturer in fine arts at Lasalle College of the Arts. He holds a doctorate in creative arts from Curtin College, Australia.

Dr Low, 42, is the founder and artistic director of Community Cultural Development (Singapore), a not-for-profit group that promotes discussion of the arts and develops community arts programmes.

She teaches art at the Singapore University of Social Sciences and anthropology at the School of the Arts Singapore. She holds a PhD in cultural studies from the National University of Singapore.

Held at Centre 42, a performing space in Bencoolen, the townhall was organised by a group of volunteers facilitating the nomination process - called the Arts NMP Secretariat. Each candidate was given a chance to speak about their decision to serve and took questions from attendees.

Asked about their priorities if selected as NMP, the two candidates had slightly different emphases.

Dr Woon wants to unify Singaporeans of different communities and backgrounds through interactions fostered by the arts. The arts, he said, is about bringing everyone together and has the potential to forge "cross-sectional dialogue".

He also said that Singapore society is growing more conservative and that he wants to be a liberal voice in Parliament.

For Dr Low, the arts NMP ensures the arts community is actively shaping Singapore culture.

She said: "We need to play a role in the evolution of culture. We need to be proactive about it as artists. We need to highlight (how it is) necessary to keep up with the times."

Dr Low also spoke about recognising artists for their work and the need for the creative field to be further professionalised.

Current arts NMP Kok Heng Leun and former arts NMP Audrey Wong, who served from 2009 to 2011, were also at the townhall to speak about their experiences.

The Arts NMP Secretariat has put up an online platform (bit.ly/artsnmp2018) for members of the arts community to express support for the candidates in the form of online signatures. Signature collection will go on until July 2.

 
 

The secretariat will send these signatures and documents from the candidates to the National Arts Council, which will formally submit them to the eight-member Parliamentary Special Select Committee chaired by Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin. This committee makes the final selection of NMPs, after interviewing candidates and consulting with elected MPs.

Introduced in 1990, the NMP scheme provides for non-partisan voices in Parliament.

There can be up to nine NMPs each term, which lasts 2 1/2 years. The current term ends in September. Four of the nine current NMPs - including Mr Kok - have said they will not seek another term.

Besides submissions from the general public, seven functional groups are invited to submit names. They are: business and industry; the professions; the labour movement; social service organisations; the civic and people sector; tertiary education institutions; and media, arts and sports organisations.

Attendees of yesterday's townhall had mixed reviews of the prospective candidates.

Said freelance designer Natalia Seah, 32: "Both candidates made me feel assured that the concerns of the arts community would still be voiced. But more than that, I was encouraged by the fact that they were willing to engage not just issues of the community, but wider issues about Singapore too."

But media studies graduate Daniel Tan, 26, was a tad disappointed. He wanted to hear how the two candidates intend to bridge the gap between the arts community and a public that may not be interested or as invested in the arts.

"They did address this somewhat but the responses from both candidates were very vague and did not instill confidence on how they would take the baton from Mr Kok."