A trio of veteran artists, from the fields of English-language theatre, sculpture and Tamil poetry, will receive the Cultural Medallion on Thursday.
They are founder and artistic director of The Necessary Stage Alvin Tan, 51; sculptor Chong Fah Cheong, 68; and poet and writer KTM Iqbal, 74.
They will be conferred the nation's highest cultural award by president Tony Tan Keng Yam at a ceremony at the Istana on Thursday evening.
The award was instituted 35 years ago by former president Ong Teng Cheong, who was then Minister of Culture, to recognise individuals who have contributed greatly and are committed to the arts here.
To date, it has been presented to 115 artists, including the three recipients this year. Recipients are each eligible for a $80,000 grant, which can be used to fund artistic endeavours over their lifetime.
Tan has been the founding artistic director of The Necessary Stage since 1987, and has directed over 70 productions for the company. He is also a council member of the National Arts Council, and part of the Singapore50 Committee.
When asked about the award, the typically modest Tan spoke about other people instead of himself. The director, known for socially-conscious plays created with other collaborators, said: "I was really pleased - it's a recognition of the practice, and the body of work...And we're also able to then talk more about how our collaborators work with us, and there are more opportunities for multiple narratives to be out there, about our method."
Chong is widely acknowledged as one of the pioneer sculptors in Singapore, and his works include First Generation (2000), the iconic sculpture of five boys jumping into the Singapore River near The Fullerton Hotel Singapore. Chong, who now lives in Canada, was also part of the first batch of lecturers at Lasalle College of the Arts when it was founded in the 1980s, and is also a founding member of the Singapore Sculpture Society. He says of the award: "I knew it was something that would be timely...Although I'm not here most of the time, I've always had a presence here, and I come back to continue work."
Iqbal was "delighted" to receive the award, which recognised achievements such as his seven collections of poetry, and his over 200 children's songs written for Radio Singapore's programmes in the 1970s and 1980s. Several of his poems are also included in Tamil texts for Singapore schools.
He adds that receiving the award is "an incredible honour. To tell you the truth, my first love is poetry. We have been together for 60 years. I never imagined this would bring me this award".
Five Young Artist Awards will also be given out at the ceremony, which recognises those aged 35 and below who have shown promise and artistic excellence. Recipients can apply for study or project grants of up to $20,000.
The recipients this year are: Composer Chen Zhangyi, 30; theatre practitioner Ian Loy, 34; film-maker Jow Zhi Wei, 31; dance artist Lee Mun Wai, 32 and theatre actor Siti Khalijah Zainal, 29.
Additional reporting by Corrie Tan and Huang Lijie