Arts council gets new chief executive

Arts council gets new chief executive
Ms Kathy Lai, 48, who takes over as CEO on Nov 1, is keen to build up patronage for artists in Singapore. -- PHOTO: IE SINGAPORE

The assistant chief executive officer of International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, Ms Kathy Lai, 48, will be taking over the reins of the National Arts Council (NAC) as chief executive officer on Nov 1.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth announced her appointment yesterday. She takes up the post vacated by Esplanade chief Benson Puah, who stepped down in August. Ms Yvonne Tham, the current covering CEO, will continue as deputy CEO.

Ms Lai said she is looking forward to her new position, and told The Straits Times that her first order of action is to get to know the arts scene better. She is also keen to build up patronage for artists in Singapore.

She said: "I don't think I can champion a community that I don't know, so the first thing I will do is to connect with the community.

"I will make sure I catch up with what the NAC has been doing all along, and really get to know the community and understand where they are coming from, what their aspirations are, what challenges they are facing, and take some time to digest all that and then chart out what to do next."

Ms Lai joined the Ministry of Trade and Industry in 1987 and the former Trade Development Board (now IE Singapore) in 1996. She also sits on the board of directors for Spring Singapore.

The arts council's newly appointed chairman, Professor Chan Heng Chee, 71, was ambassador to the United States from 1996 to last year, and worked with Ms Lai during the latter's posting to Washington when she was with IE Singapore.

Prof Chan said: "Kathy is a very creative and dynamic person, and I know that she is someone very interested in the arts.

"She is a friend of the arts, and I think she will bring a good energy to build on what has been done by Benson Puah."

However, many of the local art practitioners The Straits Times spoke to were unfamiliar with Ms Lai, given her background in trade and industry.

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