Art is as the Artist decides.
So the Arts & Culture Strategic Review Steering Committee has released its detailed report on Tuesday – not to mention the countless articles that came announcing its release.
In a nutshell, the committee is aiming for half the population of Singapore to be actively engaging in the Arts or the local Arts Community. From a scan from the articles, the committee’s focus for this year is to actively inject quality Arts and push local talent into our education system.
Hence, this will be just a few preliminary thoughts of the review.
It’s a good start…
First, I would like to say that the effort is and will be very much appreciated if the art scene and the review committee keeps up the passion and great work for the local arts community. To give them credit, increasing exposure and opening more opportunities for Arts and Arts Education is a good start. Like most intangible, good things, it’s always better to share than keep it exclusive
But here’s a concern – Physical vs. Social Environment
Second, while it’s a good effort to inject Arts into education and nurture a generation that will grow up appreciating and practicing Arts, there has to be a setting in which doing so will not be restricted.
Where I’m going with this is very simple – one of the key problems identified within the review itself was the fact that we have our younger generation actively engaging in the Arts, only to fall out of it for “practical” reasons.
So it doesn’t take a lot to look at the situation on the ground – you have the interest, the nurturing, and the resources (as they further pump it in) in school, which results in a good number of students engaging in the Arts. A good thing.
Then as the students go out of school, they end up slowly dropping out of the Arts for more ‘practical’ pursuits, things that pay their bills or pay for food better. In our consumer-dependent, results-driven environment, it becomes inevitable that the Arts community gets less and less populated.
Do you now see my concern?
Budding Artist gets engaged and interested -> Juggling Arts and Studies -> Working world, Family obligations, you have to pay your own bills & loans now -> Working hard to keep your job -> Other “less important” aspects take a back seat
So we may have events and spaces for practitioners and enthusiasts to use for their interests, passions, and what not. But if they don’t have the time (because of work, family, and what not), and an unsupportive background (family, friends, work etc…), are these spaces then fulfilling its maximum potential?
I’m sure I don’t need to explain further.
Third, one must understand that in the business of Art, one does not simply look at it as a “business”.
I’m sure that in the process of choosing a career path, or a major, many students and of our youths, even our adults in the middle of a career change face the same problem – is it sustainable? Will it pay the bills?
In short, and in the words of my Singaporean grandparents, “Got money one not?”
So yes, while we can pump in more resources and open opportunities to nurture and development our local talents, we have to make sure that the environment allows us to.
Just giving us funding has its own disadvantages as well – things like censorship, freedom of expression, and being at the patron’s or funding manager’s beck and call to create whatever THEY want instead of what YOU want.
If you asked me, I’d say the more “practical” thing to do? Create a sustainable environment for these artists.
Do we have an environment where Artists can be independent and still live decently? When I mean decently, I mean, still pay for their house, bills, food, and can provide for their children well, not the whole desperately taking whatever’s there kind of living.
So I guess that’s the greatest question I have for our Review Committee the next time – you may be pumping resources, tangible resources, to make Singapore a welcoming environment to practising artists and art enthusiasts, but are you keeping the environment a welcoming one for them?
Or are we still going to have to move out just to convince our parents that Art CAN BE a form of living?
Note: And I haven’t really started on subject matter as well. But that’ll be another day.