Arts veteran takes on a new challenge

Arts veteran takes on a new challenge
Mr Choo Thiam Siew, chief executive officer of the upcoming Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC). It will be housed in a new 10-storey Shenton Way building, aimed at reviving interest in Chinese culture.

SINGAPORE - At age 63, most people would think of retiring, but veteran arts administrator Choo Thiam Siew is taking on yet another challenge - to promote local Chinese culture.

Earlier this year, he was named chief executive officer of the upcoming Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC), which will be housed in a new 10-storey building in Shenton Way by 2016.

Initiated by the Chinese community and supported by the Government, the centre hopes to get the young and new Chinese citizens interested in local Chinese culture and host events such as cultural performances, exhibitions and workshops.

"I am honoured that at my age, I am given the responsibility to start up the centre," Mr Choo, who stepped down as president of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) in March, told The Straits Times.

Now housed in temporary offices at the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations' headquarters in Toa Payoh, the new centre will include a 530-seat auditorium, a multi-purpose hall, rehearsal rooms and a library. It will cost at least $70 million to build.

Its first major event will be a mass national song sing-along, which he hopes to stage in September next year in conjunction with Singapore's 50th birthday celebrations.

When fully operational, Mr Choo said the centre would have 16 staff and an annual operation budget of over $10 million. Now there are just three - his secretary and two programme executives.

His new job sees him continue to promote arts and culture here, which he has done for the past 18 years, starting with his appointment as chief of the National Arts Council (NAC) in 1996.

Nafa board vice-chairman Poh Choon Ann, 78, said Mr Choo is the best man for the job at the new cultural centre.

Mr Poh, who is also chief executive of Poh Tiong Choon Logistics and a strong supporter of the arts here, said: "He was a former civil servant, an efficient arts administrator and a lover of the arts who is an artist himself. Under his charge, I am sure the new Chinese cultural centre will be able to achieve its objectives."

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