New players, traditional groups to get NAC funding

New players and traditional arts companies will benefit from the latest round of funding announced by the National Arts Council (NAC) yesterday, while some established troupes get less support.

A total of $16.34 million has been committed to 63 arts groups, up from $16.2 million last year for 62.

But funding for some will drop by less than 10 per cent, due to budget reduction across the Government and a growing number of deserving recipients. NAC did not specify the number of arts groups affected.

The Finger Players’ company director Chong Tze Chien, 41, said its funding has been cut by about 10 per cent. He said that given the uncertain economic climate, “we feel heartened that we still get funding but it doesn’t make our jobs easier”.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Repertory Theatre’s executive director Charlotte Nors, 50, said it was “disappointed to learn about the size of the cut”. She said it is impossible for the company to stage its annual Shakespeare In The Park this year and more shows may be cut in future. The group stages seven shows a year, including children’s theatre.

Of the $16.34 million to be given out this year, $15 million will go to the Major Company Scheme to support established and growing art groups, while the remaining $1.34 million goes to the Seed Grant, to kick-start emerging arts groups.

Twenty-five beneficiaries were named by NAC yesterday – five under the Seed Grant and 20 under the Major Company grant. For the first time, the arts council did not detail how funding will be distributed between groups. NAC said it will no longer reveal such data.

Seed Grant recipients this year include Superhero Me, which brings art experiences to children with special needs, while new entrants to the Major Company Scheme include Malay performing arts company Sri Warisan and Chinese-language troupe Arts Theatre of Singapore.

Set up in 1955, Arts Theatre of Singapore rebranded itself in 1995 as a children’s drama troupe under current president Koh Chong Chiah. Mr Koh, 63, and his three-person team stage six productions a year, conduct drama workshops and performances in schools, and reach 20,000 viewers a year. The NAC funding will help them hire theatre-makers and admin staff.

“Right now, I’m the CEO, the accountant, the carpenter, the rubbish collector,” said Mr Koh.

Photographer Jean Loo, 32, from Superhero Me said its funding will help “design art experiences that can foster and advocate for meaningful inclusion between children with and without special needs”.

Four former Seed Grant recipients made the jump to Major Companies this year, “having achieved stability and growth in the last three years”, said NAC.

The four are theatre company Pangdemonium, visual arts collective OH! Open House, Chinese opera advocate Traditional Arts Centre and Teochew not-for-profit arts organisation Nam Hwa Opera.

From this year, NAC will evaluate grant applicants on three tracks: Artmaking, Bridging and Intermediary. NAC said creating high-quality art is a priority and the Artmaking track receives the bulk of funding.

The Bridging track focuses on programmes that develop new audiences and promote appreciation of the arts. Intermediary work supports artists and the arts sector through advocacy, research or developing capabilities.

Said NAC chief executive Rosa Daniel: “We are delighted to recognise a wide diversity in the arts groups that have been admitted to the Major Company and Seed Grant schemes this year.

“While continuing to uphold quality in the arts, NAC’s revised framework also focuses on cultivating and growing audiences, as well as the longer-term development of our arts practitioners. It is critical for the Singapore arts scene to scale new heights of excellence while at the same time better reaching out to existing and new audiences.”

  • Additional reporting by Nabilah Said

SOURCE: Singapore Straits