Arts freelancers get resource website and soon, dedicated working spaces too

Ms Nicole Choo Jen Quinn, who received a diploma certificate in fine art, was part of the first cohort in Nafa's Talent Development Programme.
Ms Nicole Choo Jen Quinn, who received a diploma certificate in fine art, was part of the first cohort in Nafa's Talent Development Programme.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Arts freelancers now have a resource website, and will also have two dedicated working spaces soon.

The website - artsresourcehub.sg - launched on Friday (Sept 6), consolidates resources and information in areas such as financial planning, career development and legal knowledge. It also has a jobs portal.

These are part of the nation's push to develop the arts scene in Singapore, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Culture, Community and Youth Baey Yam Keng.

He announced these initiatives at this year's first convocation ceremony of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) on Friday, held at the Lee Foundation Theatre at its Bencoolen Street campus.

From Friday to Sunday, 914 Nafa students will receive diploma and degree certificates.

Mr Baey said that by January next year, there will be two dedicated spaces at the Goodman Arts Centre and Stamford Arts Centre for arts freelancers to hot-desk and network with each other.

"It will facilitate interactions between arts freelancers, enable the exchange of ideas and creation of new works, and at the same time, alleviate the isolation experienced by arts freelancers who often work independently."

Mr Baey had spoken in Parliament earlier this year during the Committee of Supply debates about enhancing professional support for independent artists, and helping them grow meaningful careers.

"The growth of Singapore's cultural scene is the result of hard work and perseverance of generations of arts community stakeholders, in partnership with the private and public sector," said Mr Baey on Friday, adding that freelance artists are an important component as they make up close to half of those working in the arts.

"In the age of the gig economy, the number of freelance artists will grow. Therefore, it is important that we strengthen sector-wide support for freelance arts practitioners and professionals."

One of the priorities identified in the Our SG Arts Plan 2018 - 2022, the NAC's five-year plan for the arts sector, was to increase sector-wide support for freelance arts professionals through resources and information, and the facilitation of collaborations and networking.

In 2017 and 2018, NAC reached out to more than 370 people from the arts community to better understand their needs and concerns. One of the things that emerged was a sense that people needed an easily accessible online platform with consolidated information.

The NAC's director for education and development Grace Ng said that the resource website is "the first time that such resources have been specially curated and organised with the arts community's needs specifically in mind, and we hope the website becomes a first-stop platform for them".

"With greater access to such information, they can better focus on honing their skills and showcasing their talent," she said.

Mr Baey on Friday cited other initiatives that further improve the employability of arts freelancers. An example is how the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and its key arts and heritage agencies have adopted the Ministry of Manpower's Tripartite Standard for Contracting Self-Employed persons.

This aims to encourage businesses to have proper written contracts, and addresses the problem of late or non-payments, and fosters fair employment conditions for freelancers.

Nafa has also rolled out a Talent Development Programme that started last year for "exceptional students who are self-motivated and dedicated to deepening their skills and knowledge beyond the curriculum".

Mr Jerry Soo, 55, vice-president (academic) at Nafa, said that while there are only 10 students in the inaugural cohort under this programme, there are plans to take in up to 50 students in the next few years.

Students are selected based on faculty members' nominations. Criteria include decent grade point averages - generally at least 3.0 out of 4.0 - and characteristics such as drive and passion for the arts.

Students under the programme receive one-to-one mentorship and also get opportunities to pursue personal projects to sharpen their artistic, technical and leadership skills.

Said Mr Soo: "If they are truly talented, it's important to identify them and then try ways to nurture and groom them. A key thing we wanted is customised programmes... In a way, it's about trying to help as many as possible to reach their goals and aspirations."

Ms Nicole Choo Jen Quinn, who received a diploma certificate in fine art, was part of the first cohort in this programme, which she said gave her the opportunity to undertake a nine-month personal project exploring dementia.

After interacting closely with two seniors with the condition and listening to stories they could remember, she did an abstract art installation built with panels of white chiffon fabric with printed images on it.

It was displayed at the National Library in Bugis in April this year.

"It was a large-scale project and handling it by myself was a lot of effort," said the 20-year-old.

"The Talent Development Programme gave me space to develop the project and discover new ideas. Through that I learnt that perseverance is key to seeing through your dreams - I wasn't sure if I was doing the stories justice, but the programme and my mentor probed me to see things I otherwise wouldn't have."

Arts practitioner Adeeb Fazah, who is artistic director of theatre group The Second Breakfast Company and a freelance drama instructor in various schools, said the information on residencies posted on the resource website, training programmes and talks on financial planning would be useful to him.

The 27-year-old added: "I'm also looking forward to the new dedicated spaces for freelancers, and finding out what forms they will take. It could be a possible space from which I could work when I'm not in rehearsals or on a particular project."