Leading the arts with a flourish

Leading the arts with a flourish
Mr Benson Puah.

SINGAPORE - With Mr Benson Puah's departure on July 31, who will take over the reins at the National Arts Council?

When the council was set up in 1991, then Acting Minister for Information and the Arts George Yeo said that the arts council would have "maximum autonomy" even though it was a statutory board.

It was also implied that the council, which aims to nurture the arts in Singapore, would groom a strong and capable team of arts administrators for the country's growing arts industry.

However, over the years, individuals selected for the top position tended to be male, Chinese and above 45 - and oddly enough, not groomed from within the arts council but brought in from other statutory boards.

Until Mr Puah took the hot seat in 2009, the council's chief executive position was firmly in the grip of the civil service.

Mr Foo Meng Liang, Mr Choo Thiam Siew and Mr Lee Suan Hiang, the arts council's first three chiefs, had all served in various ministries and statutory boards prior to their appointments.

Mr Foo rotated through the then Ministry of Information and the Arts, Ministry of Community Development and the Ministry of Finance. Mr Choo spent 20 years at the Parks and Recreation Department (now the National Parks Board), and Mr Lee served at the Economic Development Board and Spring Singapore.

While all three were staunch supporters and advocates of the arts, they were still viewed as career civil servants who did not have much experience running an arts body before their appointments to one of the top arts administration jobs in town.

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