SINGAPORE: The National Arts Council (NAC) has committed to sustained levels of funding for arts organisations, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Baey Yam Keng in Parliament on Tuesday (May 26), as he acknowledged the sector had been significantly affected by COVID-19.
Mr Baey was responding to questions from Member of Parliament (MP) Terence Ho on whether the Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) will extend support to artists and arts groups until the end of the year.
Other than the “generic schemes” under the Unity, Resilience and Solidarity Budgets - such as the Enhanced Jobs Support Scheme, SEP Income Relief Scheme, and COVID-19 Support Grant - the NAC’s regular project grants continue to be available, said Mr Baey.
The regular project grants include the Major Company and Seed Grant schemes, including those for art creation and research.
Meanwhile, practitioners have also given feedback "that they want to undertake meaningful work, rather than receive direct handouts", said Mr Baey.
The S$55 million Arts and Culture Resilience Package (ACRP) that was announced by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu on Apr 7 plays a “complementary role”, by supporting cultural practitioners to develop resilience and position the sector well for the future, said Mr Baey.
The package will provide support for cultural organisations and practitioners until the end of the year, he said.
The ACRP also encourages the development of longer-term capabilities that will help the community emerge stronger after COVID-19, said Mr Baey.
For example, the ACRP’s Digitalisation Fund supports digital commissions and new works to be showcased at major festivals such as Silver Arts, Singapore Writers Festival and Singapore Art Week.
Projects have also benefited from the Digital Presentation Grant for the Arts, which aims to help artists and organisations present their work in digital form or via digital mediums during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To date, 62 applications have been supported since applications for the grant opened on Apr 14, said Mr Baey.
Overall the Digitalisation Fund aims to generate more than 1,000 opportunities, including in the post-circuit breaker period, said Mr Baey.
Meanwhile a total of 163 training programmes have been supported under the Capability Development Scheme for the Arts (CDSA) since the scheme opened on Mar 16.
The scheme gives cultural practitioners access to subsidised courses and provides income to those who are trainers themselves, said Mr Baey. It will support training programmes until the end of the year.
“I am heartened that many of our experienced artists and cultural practitioners, such as Maestro Yeh Tsung, Chong Tze Chien and Checkpoint Theatre have stepped forward to share their experience through virtual masterclasses and online training,” said Mr Baey.
Mr Ho also asked whether MCCY could provide a breakdown on how the S$55 million under the ACRP was to be used.
In his response, Mr Baey said that the allocation for each area of support under the ACRP will “depend on the evolving national situation” and “the needs and demands of the arts and culture community”.
OUTREACH TO BUSKERS
In a supplementary question, MP Louis Ng asked if the NAC was also reaching out to buskers, as they are "heavily affected" and would not be able to perform in open spaces for the next few months.
Mr Baey replied that the NAC has been reaching out to the buskers through an online platform, as part of its youth outreach initiative with *SCAPE.
"They've been able to perform for a wider community and hopefully this will also become their fans and supporters in the post COVID-19 period," he said.
He also urged “larger and more established groups” to help smaller groups and individual practitioners, and asked the public to continue supporting the arts.
“The arts and culture can uplift our spirits in these difficult times, provide comfort and sustain our emotional and physical well-being,” he said.