$150m culture fund top-up could draw new donors: Groups

A large hand emerges from the ground. Entitled Inscription Of The Island, the bronze sculpture was lowered onto the front lawn of the Singapore Art Museum on Oct 18, 2016, ahead of the Singapore Biennale.
A large hand emerges from the ground. Entitled Inscription Of The Island, the bronze sculpture was lowered onto the front lawn of the Singapore Art Museum on Oct 18, 2016, ahead of the Singapore Biennale.PHOTO: ST FILE

Arts and heritage institutions here are applauding a planned $150 million top-up to the existing Cultural Matching Fund, announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in Monday's Budget statement.

The fund, set up by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) in 2013, provides one-to- one matching of private cash donations to eligible arts and heritage groups, to encourage private giving to the cultural sector.

Groups say the fund and the new injection emphasise the importance of private support for the arts and would encourage new donors to come forward.

Intercultural Theatre Institute general manager Goh Su Lin said the fund "has not just attracted but deepened donors' commitment" to the school.

The school uses contributions by individuals like lawyer Philip Jeyaretnam and corporates such as EFG Bank Singapore, together with money from the fund, to create student scholarships, and increase and improve its studios and training rooms.

Ms Jael Chew, company manager of contemporary dance group THE Dance Company, noted that the fund is not "explicitly the reason" its donors would lend support, but acknowledged that it is "a positive call to action for our existing and potential supporters and sponsors".

THE has tapped the fund through the support of telco M1, the title sponsor for its annual dance festival.

The $200 million fund was launched by MCCY in 2013. Eligible arts and cultural organisations can tap it, subject to a cap of $15 million.

Mr Heng said on Monday that about $150 million has been committed to date, and added that "donations to arts and heritage causes have more than doubled" in 2015.

While the fund can be used for various purposes, conditions set by MCCY state that it should not be used for "activities that are harmful to Singapore", such as those that discriminate against people on racial or religious grounds.

According to the MCCY website, it is planning a review of the Cultural Matching Fund scheme this year.

It will consult arts and heritage organisations, and plans to develop an "enhanced scheme" next year.

MCCY said details will be announced at a later date.

Said the Intercultural Theatre Institute's Ms Goh: "We hope that the Cultural Matching Fund will not just be a short-term initiative, but will also become an integral part of the cultural philanthropy landscape in Singapore."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2017, with the headline '$150m culture fund top-up could draw new donors: Groups'. Print Edition | Subscribe