Cham­pi­oning the Arts

Na­tional Arts Coun­cil’s Deputy CEO, Mr. Paul Tan, ex­plains

Portfolio - - IN THIS ISSUE - By Lili Li

Be­fore join­ing the Na­tional Arts Coun­cil, where he is cur­rently Deputy CEO, Mr. Paul Tan was a broad­cast jour­nal­ist. He had also worked at the Sin­ga­pore Tourism Board, and is versed in rolling out pub­lic cam­paigns. More im­por­tantly, his in­volve­ment in the Sin­ga­pore arts scene – as pro­gram­mer, ad­min­is­tra­tor, writer or sim­ply a mem­ber of the au­di­ence – spans years. To­day, he claims that he “re­mains en­er­gized by the NAC’s mis­sion in cham­pi­oning di­verse and dis­tinc­tive arts that in­spire our peo­ple, con­nect com­mu­ni­ties and po­si­tion Sin­ga­pore glob­ally”. As Deputy CEO at the Na­tional Arts Coun­cil (NAC), Mr. Tan leads his team in en­gag­ing with artists, arts groups, gov­ern­ment agen­cies and in­dus­try part­ners. To­gether they de­velop and nur­ture an en­vi­ron­ment where peo­ple can ex­pe­ri­ence and ap­pre­ci­ate the arts as an in­te­gral part of their lives. This is not ex­actly alien ter­ri­tory to Mr. Tan who pre­vi­ously over­saw the lit­er­ary and vis­ual arts sec­tors at NAC. In that ca­pac­ity, he served as di­rec­tor of the Sin­ga­pore Writ­ers Fes­ti­val, and was re­spon­si­ble for the fes­ti­val’s artis­tic di­rec­tion, pro­duc­tion and or­ga­ni­za­tion. At the same time, he was the di­rec­tor in­volved in driv­ing the de­vel­op­ment of the vis­ual arts.

Sus­tain­ing A Giv­ing Cul­ture

The Na­tional Arts Coun­cil (NAC) rec­og­nizes that rais­ing aware­ness of the value of the arts is in­stru­men­tal in build­ing and sus­tain­ing a giv­ing cul­ture, Mr. Tan says. “At NAC, we also strongly be­lieve that pri­vate pa­tron­age is one of the ways that can help our arts groups di­ver­sify their in­come sources, en­sur­ing a sus­tain­able arts scene for the long term.” For this, NAC has sought to raise the pro­file of arts phi­lan­thropy to en­cour­age pri­vate pa­tron­age in Sin­ga­pore. A study un­der­taken by NAC to un­der­stand phil­an­thropic pat­terns in Sin­ga­pore, com­pleted in 2016, re­vealed that ma­jor­ity of non-arts donors sur­veyed were un­aware that the arts needed sup­port, and had not been ap­proached di­rectly to do­nate to the arts,

Mr. Tan shares. To this end, NAC launched the arts ad­vo­cacy cam­paign, A World Filled with the Arts, to ad­dress and break down these key bar­ri­ers. The cam­paign seeks to high­light the value of the arts and its im­pact on the lives of Sin­ga­pore­ans through pub­lic on-ground ac­ti­va­tions around the is­land, a ded­i­cated mi­crosite, and prom­i­nent ad­vo­cates in the arts scene. “With more aware­ness about the value of the arts to our lives, we hope that more in Sin­ga­pore will do their part in build­ing a sus­tain­able arts land­scape.”

Build­ing Aware­ness and In­ter­est

Since its launch in March, A World Filled with the Arts has gar­nered over S$245,000, which is 25 per cent of the $1 mil­lion that the NAC hopes to achieve through this cam­paign. “As the first step to in­creas­ing arts phi­lan­thropy is to build aware­ness and in­ter­est in the arts, in ad­di­tion to track­ing dona­tions, we are also track­ing pub­lic en­gage­ment with the cam­paign through vis­i­tor­ship fig­ures for our on-ground ac­ti­va­tions, mi­crosite and the giv­ arts do­na­tion site,” Mr. Tan says. A World Filled with the Arts is part of a long-term ef­fort to raise aware­ness and in­ter­est in the arts. “We hope to con­tinue in­spir­ing more peo­ple to rec­og­nize a col­lec­tive stake in de­vel­op­ing Sin­ga­pore’s vi­brant arts scene, and un­der­stand that ev­ery amount given helps to safe­guard its longevity for cur­rent and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. “The arts tran­scend lan­guages and ages. It pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties for ex­change be­tween com­mu­ni­ties, al­lows us to un­der­stand each other bet­ter, and helps us ex­press our thoughts and feel­ings. The im­pact of the arts to so­ci­ety is well known.” Mr. Tan adds that the arts can ad­dress so­cial is­sues, en­cour­age so­cial mix­ing, and help peo­ple re­flect on their place in the com­mu­nity, the na­tion and the larger hu­man­ity. “With more peo­ple valu­ing the role of the arts and un­der­stand­ing how it’s con­nected to the soul of Sin­ga­pore, we hope that more Sin­ga­pore­ans will do their part in show­ing their sup­port.”

Ev­ery Bit Counts

Sup­port for the arts takes many forms. A per­son can catch a lo­cal pro­duc­tion, read a book by a home­grown au­thor or col­lect a work by a Sin­ga­porean artist. “But equally im­por­tant, you can con­trib­ute fi­nan­cially. It is a com­mon mis­con­cep­tion that you can only give to the arts if you are ex­tremely wealthy or a large cor­po­rate or­ga­ni­za­tion. “In re­al­ity – and this is why we are rolling out this cam­paign – any­body can con­trib­ute and ev­ery bit counts. This sup­port will go a long way to re­al­iz­ing a world filled with the arts.” The Coun­cil is com­mit­ted to cul­ti­vate a cul­ture of giv­ing to the arts as this helps to di­ver­sify sources of in­come to arts groups, thereby en­sur­ing the long-term vi­a­bil­ity of the Sin­ga­pore arts scene. Donors keen on mak­ing trans­for­ma­tional gifts will have more op­por­tu­ni­ties to do so, with up­com­ing arts in­fra­struc­ture projects in­clud­ing the Es­planade’s Wa­ter­front The­atre and the re­vamp of Sin­ga­pore Art Mu­seum. “At the Na­tional Arts Coun­cil, we are also open to start­ing con­ver­sa­tions with any­one in­ter­ested to ex­plore new op­por­tu­ni­ties to sup­port the arts. Feel free to reach us at” Visit the cam­paign web­site at for more in­for­ma­tion about A World Filled with the Arts and on­line fundrais­ing cam­paigns by lo­cal arts or­ga­ni­za­tions.



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