$25m funding for traditional arts over five years

$25m funding for traditional arts over five years
Minister of State Sam Tan.

SOME $25 million in funding will be pumped into the traditional arts over the next five years, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Sam Tan told Parliament yesterday.

"It is… important for us to build inclusive communities that interact and play with each other, regardless of race, language or culture. This is something the traditional arts can do," he said during the debate on MCCY's budget.

Mr Tan raised the example of flute player Tan Qinglun from Ding Yi Music Company who taught himself how to play the Indian flute, and went on to perform in a sold-out fusion concert at the Esplanade last year.

His story shows how different cultures can be welded together to "make art that honours our traditions", he said.

Responding to queries from Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC), Mr Tan said the money would be used to help traditional arts groups rent spaces, upgrade their skills and support them to organise competitions.

Funds will also be set aside for schemes to nurture young practitioners and audiences, and to support arts groups in documenting their history and practices.

Following consultations with artists, the ministry is also looking to revitalise the ageing Stamford Arts Centre as a "centre with a focus on the traditional arts", said Mr Tan.

Restored in 1988 from an old primary school, the centre now houses nine arts groups, with late theatre pioneer Kuo Pao Kun's company Theatre Practice as its anchor tenant.

These groups, which have to vacate the centre, are getting help from the National Arts Council (NAC) to relocate.

The Straits Times understands that the centre will be redeveloped next year.

Traditional arts groups here hailed the moves as much needed in an often overlooked sector.

"We need more resources to research other art forms, develop a proper Malay dance syllabus in schools, and send our dancers to Malaysia and Indonesia to expose them to cultural dance there," said Mr Azrin Abdul Rahim, executive director of Malay cultural group Era Dance Theatre.

Mr Mohan Bhaskar, who heads the Indian arts company Bhaskar's Arts Academy, says his company could use extra funds to do more to reach out to the community, especially seniors, and defray the cost of producing shows.

He also hopes to find a bigger space for his company, which currently has a teaching wing at the Stamford Arts Centre.

"Our priority is to have a centre to combine our teaching and performing wings. Both functions are important. They allow us to groom a new generation of Singaporean performers," he said.


This article was first published on Mar 13, 2015.
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