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NMP hopeful outlines vision for arts sector

Theatre veteran Kok Heng Leun hopes to use arts and culture to help communities develop distinct identities, if he is selected as the next nominated member of parliament (NMP) for the arts.

SINGAPORE: Theatre veteran Kok Heng Leun hopes to use arts and culture to help communities develop distinct identities, if he is selected as the next nominated member of parliament (NMP) for the arts.

So far, the 48-year-old is the only one who has stepped forward as a potential candidate for the arts scene.

Mr Kok outlined his vision and hopes in a town hall meeting on Saturday, and some 90 members of the arts community turned up to show their support and to quiz Mr Kok on how he could contribute as a NMP.

In the two-hour session, Mr Kok took the chance to address concerns that the audience had, ranging from protection for freelancers to engagement of the younger generation.

Mr Kok also hopes to encourage the community to participate in creating art.

He said: "A lot of this civic engagement must come from the ground. It's not just about them making an artwork, but making an artwork that helps them to discuss who and what they are.

"Such engagement requires a lot of dialogue and requires special artists to organise it so that the artists are not at the forefront, but the community are at the forefront of creating artwork that represents their thoughts.

"This is something that requires a lot of foregrounding, and the policy-makers, and the people who are running such programmes, to understand."

Janice Koh, the outgoing NMP for the arts, said: "The role of the arts NMP has always been about not just looking at policy issues for the direction of government, on policy issues related to arts and the creative sector, but also being a cultural lens, reflecting on other national issues through this cultural lens.

"I would hope that the next arts NMP continues in this role.

"The fact that we have very few candidates who have stepped up for this role actually shows the responsibility and the burden that we know this role carries, representing this sector.

"It's challenging. A lot of the practitioners are full-time artistes. There is some sacrifice to their own personal practice when they decide to step up for this role."

Ms Koh also shared her thoughts on Mr Kok. She said: "I think Heng Leun is a veteran in the arts sector, hugely respected, and has a wealth of experience, not just in education and the arts, but also in the community, working with different communities through the community arts and is very well-placed to represent issues related to all these areas."

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