Spike in arts attendance last year

Images being projected onto the facade of the National Gallery Singapore during its grand opening on Nov 27 last year. The gallery saw tens of thousands of visitors in its first week.
Images being projected onto the facade of the National Gallery Singapore during its grand opening on Nov 27 last year. The gallery saw tens of thousands of visitors in its first week.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

NAC survey shows highest level of interest in a decade, a promising sign for local arts scene

More Singaporeans are recognising the value of arts and culture - a "game changer" that arts proponents hope can spur long-term growth of the local arts scene.

A survey by the National Arts Council (NAC) on arts consumption and engagement has found that 78 per cent of the population acknowledge that arts and culture help foster a sense of community and identity, and inspire creativity and innovation.

This is a 15 percentage point increase compared with the last survey finding in 2013.

  • 8 in 10

    Attended at least one arts event or activity last year

    3 in 10

    Participated in at least one arts event or activity last year

    8 in 10

    Recognise the benefits and value of engaging in arts and culture

    4 in 10

    Are interested in arts and cultural events

This was a key finding of the 2015 National Population Survey on the Arts which was released yesterday.

The arts council's director of strategic planning, Mr Kenneth Kwok, said the public's positive perception of arts and culture is an impetus for sustained growth of the audience and the arts scene.

He said: "That people see the value of the arts - that it is very important and they should support the arts - that, to me, is a game changer."

Mr Kwok, who is also director of arts and youth at the council, added: "NAC has invested a lot in terms of education programmes and working with the Ministry of Education in schools. And it will take time, but these are indications that we are slowly nurturing a generation of Singaporeans who really see the value of the arts."

The overall level of interest in arts and culture has also risen, with 41 per cent of respondents saying they are interested in arts and culture - the highest in a decade.

In the last survey, only 28 per cent expressed interest.

With the many arts and culture events that took place during Singapore's Golden Jubilee celebrations last year - including free performances in malls and community clubs - arts attendance saw a 38 percentage point increase.

Nearly eight in 10 went for a show or an event, or visited a museum or gallery last year.

Ms Nancy Ong, 32, a scientist, was among those who visited the National Gallery Singapore during its opening celebrations last year. She returned a second time later with her six-year-old niece.

She said: "I'm not a museum-goer by nature but I went because of the free admission and media reports on the cool, new architecture.

"The museum's Keppel Centre for Art Education makes art interactive for children and is very well done."

The survey also found that arts participation, including involvement in arts workshops and talks, rose from 13 per cent in 2013 to 28 per cent last year.

Conducted earlier this year, the survey sampled 2,041citizens and permanent residents and is representative of the population in terms of age, race and gender.

Arts practitioners are cautiously optimistic about what the findings mean.

Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun said the resources devoted to arts and culture in the Jubilee year, and through the Government's arts and culture budget of more than $270 millionfrom 2012 to this year, may account for the increased interest and participation.

"We've just got the ball rolling, but it may not mean sustained patronage," he said.

Singapore Chinese Orchestra executive director Terence Ho said the trend is encouraging, but added that it would be more meaningful to have the numbers broken down into ticketed and non-ticketed attendance.

"Ticketed attendance is an indicator of how committed the audience is to supporting the arts," he said.

The full set of results will be released at the end of next month.

The arts council also highlighted upcoming programmes and policy improvements, including revisions to its Major Grant scheme which supports the development of established arts organisations.

The revised grant will allow arts groups to better focus on what they specialise in - be it art-making, supporting the professional development of the industry, or community outreach.

Of the proposed change, Ms Goh Su Lin, general manager of the Intercultural Theatre Institute, a Major Grant recipient, said: "It is encouraging that different types of artistic work and contribution, and their different challenges and needs, are being acknowledged."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2016, with the headline 'Spike in arts attendance last year'. Print Edition | Subscribe