As the National Arts Council (NAC) commemorates three decades of Singapore’s arts and culture, it pays tribute to patrons who gave close to $40 million to the arts amidst a challenging 2020. The total cash donations from the private sector, coupled with the dollar for dollar matching of the Cultural Matching Fund (CMF) between 2014 to 2020, supported the arts and heritage sector with close to $650 million since the inception of the CMF.
264 patrons were honoured at the annual Patron of the Arts Awards (POAA) 2021 for their contributions over the past year; comprising 196 individuals and 68 organisations, these patrons generously supported Singapore’s ever-growing arts scene despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their contributions were recognised at the awards ceremony held at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre and officiated by the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, Mr Edwin Tong.
Mr Edwin Tong said, “We have made progress in strengthening the value of the arts as an anchor to our distinctive Singaporean identity. As NAC commemorates its 30th anniversary, we are at an inflection point for the government, arts community and other partners to shape the arts landscape for future generations by leveraging on new opportunities. We pay tribute to the many stakeholders, including our arts patrons, who had been instrumental in developing our vibrant local arts scene throughout the years especially amidst these trying times. The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and NAC are committed to work hand-in-hand with our arts community to chart the way forward for the sector.”
While arts philanthropy plays a crucial role in developing the arts scene, NAC’s long-term plans on areas such as arts education, infrastructure projects, investment in local talent, and making arts accessible to Singaporeans remain.
Noting the growing needs of the arts scene, Mr Edwin Tong announced at the ceremony that the NAC and Singapore Land Authority (SLA) will also offer new spaces at Kampong Java for multidisciplinary arts practices by 2023/24. This initiative encourages experimentation and innovation in the arts and allows multi-disciplinary artists to focus on their creative processes. Recognising that nearly one-in-two in the arts sector are Self-Employed Persons (SEPs), the Arts Resource Hub (ARH) will go beyond providing online resources to ensure affordability of well-equipped spaces that cater to their diverse needs and encourage multi-disciplinary collaborations.
In addition, to reflect a strong and distinct Singaporean identity and raise collective awareness of Singaporean art and on Singaporeans who have enriched our arts and culture landscape with their artistic excellence, contribution and commitment, the Arts House Limited (AHL), commissioned by the NAC, will launch a showcase on Singapore’s Cultural Medallion recipients at The Arts House in November this year. Singaporeans will learn more about our cultural icons and their artistic practice through the showcase’s interactive and informative physical and digital components. NAC will also continue working with the National Library Board (NLB) on an integrated and comprehensive repository for arts content in addition to other documentation efforts by our cultural institutions such as Esplanade’s TributeSG, National Gallery Singapore and STPI’s dedicated exhibitions, as well as public presentation platforms and arts education programmes that profile our cultural icons and their works.
Against the backdrop of global developments, and in keeping attuned to the society’s aspirations, interests and sensitivities, the NAC will also engage more than 1,000 persons across the arts community, business and social sectors, public agencies and community stakeholders in drawing up the next edition of its five-year blueprint. This next milestone will build on the gains of Our SG Arts Plan (2018 – 2022) to identify strategic priorities to grow and sustain the arts.
At the ceremony, Mr Edwin Tong also commended arts organisations and SEPs for their encouraging take-up of grants under the $75 million Arts and Culture Resilience Package (ACRP) for upskilling, digitalisation and organisational transformation. In the past year, NAC had come up with a slew of targeted, relevant support schemes to provide over 12,000 work and training opportunities for arts groups, freelancers and SEPs.
The resilience and creativity of the sector are further demonstrated by innovative proposals and overwhelming response to the recently launched Organisation Transformation Grant (OTG) and the SEP Grant. For example, The Props Collective received the OTG to provide a centralised props storage warehouse solution for theatre companies. By creating a centralised and shared storage space for props and sets, theatre companies can leverage one another’s experiences and resources to reduce the cost of art-making, leading to greater efficiency and sustainability for the arts community. The SEP Grant is expected to benefit more than 1,000 SEPs in core project teams and generate a projected 4,500 job opportunities for SEPs, while the OTG would support about 100 arts organisations in their transformation efforts.
Mrs Rosa Daniel, Chief Executive Officer of NAC, noted, “Our artists have demonstrated an admirable spirit of resilience through finding innovative ways of working around the challenges posed by the global pandemic. We are very encouraged by the high take-up among arts organisations and Self-Employed Persons (SEPs) for the grants offered under the $75 million Arts and Culture Resilience Package (ACRP) to embark on digitalisation, capability building and organisation transformation. In the coming months, NAC will sustain these efforts to make lasting changes. NAC will also engage more than 1,000 stakeholders across the public, people and private sectors to seek views in growing our arts sector beyond Our SG Arts Plan (2018 – 2022). We thank all donors and patrons who have supported the sector over the years to affirm the positive impact and value of the arts.”
This year, POAA saw nearly $17 million in in-kind donations, a substantial increase of 73 per cent compared to the previous year. This trend is an encouraging sign of how patrons have generously provided a multitude of resources to help Singapore’s arts community emerge stronger and signifies the enduring support for the sector’s growth. Long-time patrons have also remained steadfast in buttressing Singapore’s arts scene. They include Singtel, United Overseas Bank and JCDecaux Singapore, who continue to be recognised as Distinguished Patrons of the Arts this year.
Accenture Singapore, which was awarded the Distinguished Patron of the Arts Award at the ceremony, collaborated with National Gallery Singapore as its Innovation Partner to introduce 4 [Adopt Now], an art adoption programme powered by blockchain crowdfunding. A partnership spanning seven years from 2014 to 2021, it made the best use of digital innovation with the draw of visual arts to bring mobility, analytics and digital marketing, and an agile cloud-based infrastructure together to offer Gallery visitors a differentiated experience through the Gallery Explorer App. The app also increased engagement efforts and enabled agile processes during the pandemic.
Ms Ng Wee Wei, Senior Managing Director and Country Managing Director, Accenture Singapore, said, “We are pleased that Accenture’s partnership with National Gallery Singapore to leverage digital technologies has helped deliver unique art experiences to the public beyond the gallery doors. Using technology like blockchain, Augmented Reality (AR), and mobile platforms to support efforts such as art adoption or education, we were able to make it easier for the public to engage with our local art scene more frequently. We hope that more people will come to appreciate and support art of all forms.”
Increasingly, arts philanthropy has gone beyond cash donations and comes in non-traditional forms such as the gift of skills, space and other forms of giving-in-kind. Friend of the Arts Award recipient StorHub Self Storage contributed creatively by offering two years’ worth of storage space to performing arts organisations such as Pangdemonium and Players Theatre, so that theatre shows can have one less worry of managing costs of props storage with changing schedules due to ever-evolving safe management measures. Multi-theatre venue Gateway Theatre was also awarded the Friend of the Arts Award this year. They gave in-kind by sponsoring their venue and marketing for a disability-led short film, Perspectives, by Lim Lee Lee. Gateway Theatre also supported A Green Dot (2020) by A Little RAW Company (ALR), a digital presentation by an inclusive young dancers’ company based in Singapore, which featured performers with different abilities.
POAA 2021 recognises contributions made between 1st January and 31st December 2020, and celebrates arts patrons who have contributed to Singapore’s arts sector development. The POAA 2021 ceremony was aired live at 3.30 pm on NAC’s Facebook and YouTube platforms, providing the public with an opportunity to honour arts patrons online.
More information on the POAA can be found here