Arts News Singapore

Patron of the Arts Awards 2022: Growth in cash donations signals importance of sustaining the arts despite pandemic

As Singapore’s arts sector looks towards a positive post-pandemic future, the National Arts Council (NAC) pays tribute to patrons who gave over $32 million to the arts in 2021. 323 patrons were honoured at the 39th edition of the Patron of the Arts Awards (POAA), comprising a total of 244 individuals and 79 organisations. These patrons continued to support Singapore’s resilient arts scene as the nation welcomed the arts back to life, with an 18 per cent increase in cash donations in 2021, amounting to over $26 million. These generous contributions will be recognised at the POAA 2022 ceremony, to be held tomorrow on 25 August 2022 at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC) and officiated by the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, Mr Edwin Tong.

On recognising the impact of arts philanthropy in 2021, Mr Edwin Tong said, “Thanks to the contributions from our patrons, the arts sector was able to continue its important mission of inspiring Singaporeans, deepening our sense of belonging and national identity, and strengthening our commitment to building a better future together. Our experience over the past two years has shown us that when we have a common cause and work together in partnership, we can bring the arts in Singapore to greater heights. As we launch Our SG Arts Plan (2023-2027), which will set the direction for the arts landscape for the next 5 years, I look forward to an even more vibrant arts scene.”

POAA 2022 marks the evolution of arts philanthropy in Singapore in tandem with the local arts landscape. The past year witnessed a growing number of supporters, where over 30 per cent of this year’s awardees were first-time patrons. This upward trend is in line with findings from the NAC Arts Philanthropy Corporate Giving Research 2022, which indicated optimism among current and future corporate givers.

New awardees, such as Mr Lim Lung Tieng, Dr Charles Toh, Mr Christopher Chuah, Diana Koh Foundation, Mr Osbert Lyman, Ms Tanya Shariff & Mr Sriram Vaidhya, and Sun Venture Pte Ltd have provided all-rounded support to elevate the local arts scene. Mr Chuah, a recipient of the Distinguished Patron of the Arts, was awarded for contributing to self-employed artists presenting works through livestreamed performances. He shared, “The performing arts in particular had felt the brunt of COVID-19 with limited opportunities for performances and gigs. As an avid supporter of the local arts scene, I wanted to provide an online platform for our performing artists to sustain, hone their craft, and at the same time, bring enjoyment and uplift our community during difficult times.”

Meanwhile, Ngee Ann Kongsi provided the largest donation of over $6.2 million cumulatively to two local arts institutions, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and LASALLE College of the Arts. The donations supported arts scholarships and awards for students in NAFA, and LASALLE’s campus extension, respectively. Long-time patrons gave other significant donations towards advancing arts education – Keppel Care Foundation, which established the Keppel Centre for Art Education at National Gallery Singapore, and Dr Stephen Riady, who gave to Intercultural Theatre Institute in support of arts education in the performing arts.

Diversified giving leaves a lasting impact on beneficiaries through innovative ways. Beyond cash donations, individuals and organisations have provided in-kind contributions through spaces, professional skills equipping, as well as empowering artists and arts groups through capability building.

UOL Group Limited, a Distinguished Patron of the Arts recipient, sponsored spaces at their hotel galleries to inspire art appreciation among the public and to raise awareness of creating a more inclusive society through ART:DIS’ artworks. They also provided spaces to facilitate meaningful causes, such as International Women’s Day, and introduce artists from diverse backgrounds, such as special needs artist Genine Tham. 

Ms Angela Tan, Executive Director, ART:DIS, shared, “Art is a universal language that transcends age, race, and abilities. UOL Group has enabled persons with disabilities to express themselves, empowered them to gain confidence and engaged a wider community. We hope to strengthen our social fabric through art, and co-create an inclusive and cohesive society.”

Separately, Patron of the Arts Award recipient Gateway Theatre and Friend of the Arts Award recipient Elmwood Group boosted artists’ capability development by providing their expertise for sound design and accounting services, respectively.

The trend of in-kind giving to the arts, such as through capability building, professional services, technology, advertising spaces and physical spaces is expected to grow in the coming years, according to the NAC Arts Philanthropy Corporate Giving Research 2022. It also found that despite being more resource intensive, donors are more assured that in-kind giving will create a tangible impact on beneficiaries.

NAC released the NAC Arts Philanthropy Corporate Giving Research 2022 today, a timely follow-on from the Arts Philanthropy Study in 2016. The research revealed that the arts philanthropy landscape in Singapore is set to grow, with one-third of corporates intending to give to the arts in the next three years, while more than half of the current corporate arts philanthropists also plan to increase their giving to the arts. This augurs well for recognition accorded to the positive impact and value which the arts brings to our society and economy.

Key trends identified by the research included the shift of the philanthropy landscape towards sustainable giving through partnerships, such as employee-based donation schemes, employee-based volunteering, and collaborative philanthropy. Other highlights include:

  • Complex challenges posed by the pandemic were found to require a collaborative, ‘many helping hands’ approach, where individuals, leaders and organisations, come together to work towards a shared goal. Six in ten corporations have either given or intend to start giving through collaborative philanthropy to achieve greater collective impact. Such collaborations are amplified by initiatives such as the Sustain the Arts (stART) Fund, in which NAC partners with the private sector to boost the long-term sustainability of small arts organisations, and nurture a culture of giving to the arts. 
  • The research also found that beneficiaries can foster more meaningful partnerships and increase their engagement with corporate donors by understanding their business objectives.

The research results will give the local arts community a relevant and deeper understanding of arts philanthropy trends and best-in-class practices. Artists and arts organisations can glean insights on growth areas for arts philanthropy, which could help develop strategies, especially in expanding cross-industry opportunities and partnering with corporate businesses.

Arts philanthropy continues to be a channel for the public, private and people sectors to support the sustainable growth of Singapore’s arts scene and to build a creative and cohesive society. With plans for the launch of the next iteration of Our SG Arts Plan currently underway, NAC’s efforts through POAA and the NAC Arts Philanthropy Corporate Giving Research 2022 help to reinforce the importance of collaboration with the arts community and the wider public to strengthen the long-term sustainability of the sector. 

Mrs Rosa Daniel, Chief Executive of NAC, noted, “The sector’s achievements over the last two years was strongly supported by the growing number of patrons who attest to the positive impact and value of the arts in Singapore.  NAC is committed to exploring deeper partnerships with the public, people and private sectors to collectively build a connected society, distinctive city, and a creative economy through Our SG Arts Plan (2023-2027) We thank our patrons for your continued dedication and support of the Singapore arts scene and hope that you have found this journey with the community meaningful.”

POAA 2022 recognises contributions made between 1 January and 31 December 2021 and is a celebration of our arts patrons. The POAA ceremony will be held as a hybrid event at SCCC and aired live on NAC’s Facebook platform at 5pm on 25 August 2022, providing the public an opportunity to honour the arts patrons online. 

Join the conversation via Facebook and Instagram by following @NACSingapore and #POAA2022. More information on the POAA can be found here

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