It took little to persuade theatre lover Ellie Sakrzewski to loosen her purse strings and donate $10,000 to the Singapore Repertory Theatre.
The Singapore permanent resident from Australia, who runs a fashion and jewellery business, made the contribution last year during a silent auction at a fund-raising dinner for the home-grown theatre company.
She is among a growing number of individuals who have made giving to the arts more personal. Last year, growth in the number of individual patrons surpassed that of corporate donors.
Ms Sakrzewski, 45, put in a joint bid of $20,000 with a friend for a pair of tickets to the 2013 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. She said: "I have always enjoyed productions by the Singapore Repertory Theatre and for helping the theatre, I got to go to the Grammys."
At the Patron of the Arts Awards ceremony on Tuesday, the National Arts Council honoured 353 corporate and individual donors for their contributions to the arts last year.
Of the award recipients, 88 were individuals, a more than 70 per cent increase from 51 individual recipients last year. More than half of the individuals recognised were also first-time awardees.
The increase in individual donors is matched by their total contributions, which almost doubled from $1.2 million in 2011 to $2.1 million last year.
The number of corporate award recipients rose by about 17 per cent from 227 last year to 265 this year.
Such robust growth reflects the overall flourishing of arts giving last year, which exceeded levels of contributions before the 2008 economic downturn.
The $35.3 million arts sponsorship received in total topped the pre-recession figure of $34.2 million in 2007 and also exceeded the $31.2 million arts sponsorship in 2011. The donations comprised $25.3 million in cash contributions and $10 million of in-kind sponsorship.
Those honoured at the ceremony included first-time donors such as events and concert organiser Unusual Productions and W Singapore - Sentosa Cove, as well as repeat donors such as Singapore Press Holdings and the Hong Leong Foundation.
Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said at the ceremony at Conrad Centennial Singapore: "I think it is a very welcoming trend to see people in their private capacities wanting to make a meaningful contribution in the arts.
"We would like even more people to contribute and have a stake in the growth of the arts in Singapore."
Mr Wong said the ministry's $200 million fund to match private sector donations to the arts and culture, which was first announced in Parliament in March, aims to spur more donors to step forward.
He said the ministry has completed its consultations on how to implement the scheme and will be finalising details in the coming months.
Retired broadcaster Lucy Leong, 71, a first-time recipient, said she was "pleasantly surprised" by the award.
Madam Leong, the sister of the late Singaporean composer Leong Yoon Pin, had together with eight other family members and friends donated $500,000 to the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts' school of music. The donation, made to preserve the legacy of the late composer, will fund a scholarship in his name as well as an annual music composition competition.
Madam Leong said: "Our motivation was not recognition for ourselves, but the award raises awareness of how people can help to support the arts."
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