Arts fund that promotes inclusivity extended for $1m over next two years

A memorandum of understanding was  signed between the National Arts Council and the Community Development Councils on Monday (Sept 4) to extend the WeCare Arts Fund over the next two years.
A memorandum of understanding was signed between the National Arts Council and the Community Development Councils on Monday (Sept 4) to extend the WeCare Arts Fund over the next two years. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - When asked to create an artwork based on the theme of "home", retired teacher Daisy Leong, 73, was surprised that she shared similar ideas with her young partner.

The Jia Ying Community Services Society member was paired with Serangoon Secondary school student Susanna Bombay, 14. They decided to create a piece that showed their bedrooms as a safe space to pursue their interests and hobbies, such as colouring and playing music.

These activities are "therapeutic and makes us feel at home", said the pair, who took seven sessions to create their mixed media sculpture, currently on display at Our Tampines Hub.

This project is one of the 348 sponsored under theWeCare Arts Fund in the last three years. The fund was renewed by $1 million over the next two years with a memorandum of understanding signed on Monday (Sept 4).

It was set up in 2014 to make arts programmes more inclusive among the less advantaged communities, such as people with disabilities, youths at risk or isolated elderly people helped by social service organisations (SSOs).

It set aside $1.5 million over three years in 2014 to applications from the more than 400 SSOs recognised by the Ministry of Social and Family Development or the National Council of Social Service. Up to $5,000 per project can be given. Each organisation can apply for up to $10,000 each year, and the money can be used to cover artist fees, materials and other project costs.

The agreement on Monday was signed by the Mayors' Committee chairman Low Yen Ling on behalf of the Community Development Councils, and National Arts Council chief executive Rosa Daniel.

Guest-of-honour Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu witnessed the signing and opened the WeCare Arts Exhibition, which features artworks such as mosaic art, photographs and sculptures created by senior citizens from five social service organisations.

It is free and open to the public, and will run until next Thursday (Sept 14).

Ms Chua Ai Liang, senior director of Engagement and Participation, said that one important benefit to the participants in these programmes is self-discovery. "Staff from SSOs tell us that during these sessions, 'my beneficiary is a different person, I've never see him smile like that'," she said.

The art projects under the fund involved more than 171 social service organisations, 91 artists and some 8,300 beneficiaries in the last three years (since 2014).

They include visual arts programmes, dance workshops and drumming sessions.

Ms Leong said that she had reservations at first about her age difference with Susanna.

She said: "I was thinking 'oh dear, she would be grumbling about an old lady like me', but it turned out we had very similar ideas."

Artist Mary Bernadette Lee, 32, who guided the pair in making their artwork, said: "As an artist, it was warm and heartening to see how art brought them together."