The arts community has gathered once again, not for a celebration, but to reflect and envision a future. At the “Let’s Talk” dialogue session organised by the National Arts Council on 24 July, artists, arts managers and arts students discussed issues relating to the ‘quarter-life crisis’ of many arts groups and the local arts scene. Many critical questions were raised, and heartwarming suggestions were put forth. Issues of artistic renewal, public participation in the arts and financial viability threaten the sustainability of Singapore’s local arts scene.
Why are we capable in only filling half the seats at local shows?
Where have our audiences gone?
How do we improve the quality of our works, so that they are relevant to and loved by the community?
Where will our artistic legacy be heading in the coming years?
Are our arts institutions nurturing the relevant new generation to succeed the baton of artistic passion and skills?
What do the community and our audiences want and need from our artists?
It is troubling to learn that, despite a persistent increase in arts funding from the authorities, these burning questions, and many others, are still left unanswered. At this juncture, I would like to add: While the barriers for stepping into the artistic field have weakened, are the thresholds for producing quality works low enough to allow for experimentation and accommodate trials and errors? With a rising cost of materials, rental space and production, are our artists impeded from going all out for artistic perfection?
As much as the artists, themselves, need a strong determination and belief in their inherent talents to sustain the arts scene, they long for strong support and recognition from all segments of the society. Everyone needs to ‘raise their hands’ for commitment and participation in the arts, for an-almost-half-a-century-old Singapore to be a better one in the next half.