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Grooving With The Times: Our SG Arts Plan (2023 - 2027)


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In This Explainer, Find Out...

  • What led to the formulation of Our SG Arts Plan (2023-2027)?

  • What are the strategic thrusts of Our SG Arts Plan and its accompanying initiatives?

  • What are some strengths and challenges faced by Our SG Arts Plan?


Have you heard familiar homegrown music broadcast in Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stations or seen intricately designed staircases in your neighbourhood? These are two of many initiatives under Our SG Arts Plan (2023-2027) (Our SG Arts Plan). Launched on 5 September 2023 by the National Arts Council (NAC), Our SG Arts Plan (2023-2027) is a roadmap guiding Singapore’s arts policies for the next five years. The masterplan comprises three key pillars: a connected society, a distinctive city and a creative economy.


How did Our SG Arts Plan Arise?


Grooving With The Times


At the launch of (2023-2027), Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong described Our SG Arts Plan as “a bold, forward-looking, and timely plan”.¹ In 2018, NAC launched the first iteration of Our SG Arts Plan, designed to inspire our people, connect our communities and position Singapore globally. 


In a world where change is the only constant, the necessity of evolution and improvement also extends to the art scene. Over the years, Singapore’s arts sector has also matured and diversified, expanding beyond our shores to gain international recognition. The COVID-19 pandemic also highlighted the need to support Singapore’s freelance art professionals. Finally, technology has altered the ways we engage with content. In light of these developments, Our SG Arts Plan is a refreshed roadmap that builds on the gains of Our SG Arts Plan (2018-2022) to future-proof our arts landscape.


The Arts Belong to Everyone


As the “Our” in “Our SG Arts Plan” suggests, the roadmap was also developed through extensive consultation with more than 16,500 stakeholders.² These include artists, cultural organisations, private and public sector partners, as well as Singaporeans from all walks of life.


In a consultative approach reminiscent of the Forward Singapore Exercise, the NAC engaged stakeholders from June 2021 to February 2023, enabling them to weigh in on their aspirations for Singapore’s arts scene. From these conservations, issues like increasing polarisation and the advent of technology were raised, shaping the final master plan’s emphasis on leveraging technology and making the arts a uniting force.


What does Our SG Arts Plan Seek TO Achieve?


Our SG Arts Plan is built upon three key shifts in Singapore’s arts strategy:³


  1. Adopting an ecosystem approach to industry development by forging partnerships with diverse stakeholders;

  2. Placing greater focus on audience needs;

  3. Leveraging technology and innovation to support artists and arts organisations.


These shifts will guide the three pillars that form the basis of Our SG Arts Plan:⁴


  1. A Connected Society;

  2. A Distinctive City;

  3. A Creative Economy.


Inclusivity: A Connected Society


As a repository of heritage, culture and identity, the arts can be a powerful unifying force. The first pillar of Our SG Arts Plan aims to build a connected society where Singaporeans find a shared heritage through arts and culture. NAC identified three key priorities of action under this pillar:


  1. Sustaining an audience through embedding arts experiences in key life areas;

  2. Strengthening communities through shared experiences by expanding arts touchpoints and partnerships;

  3. Driving advocacy to encourage support for the arts.


To increase access to the arts, greater emphasis will be placed on partnerships between NAC and the Ministry of Education (MOE) to bring the arts to schools and schools to the arts.⁵ 


To make the arts even more accessible and inclusive, NAC launched Catch, a one-stop digital platform where patrons can easily explore and book cultural events in Singapore. Powered by data-driven outreach strategies, Catch aims to inspire more people to engage with the vibrant arts offerings in Singapore.⁶ Catch also spotlights smaller arts groups, allowing them to promote their events to wider audiences for free (see Figure 1). Catch also features curated itineraries that take you through arts trails involving museums, shows and galleries.


Figure 1: Catch article featuring curated events



Vibrancy: A Distinctive City


Beyond inclusivity, the second pillar of Our SG Arts Plan aims to nurture a distinctive city where the arts enliven vibrant, dynamic spaces. To this end, NAC has identified three key priorities of action:


  1. Diversifying and unlocking spaces by integrating the arts where people live, work and play;

  2. Activating places and precincts through co-creation;

  3. Infusing arts everywhere to design an immersive and creative city.


One example of an initiative to enliven spaces with the arts is the Lively Places Programme. Developed in collaboration with the Urban Development Authority (URA) and the Housing & Development Board (HDB), the Lively Places Programme provides funds for residents to initiate projects to enliven public spaces through activities and installations.⁸ This has allowed residents to add colour to their neighbourhoods, such as in Yew Lian Park (See Figure 2).


Other initiatives include Hear65’s I Play SG Music campaign. In a collaboration between NAC and SMRT, I Play SG Music brings homegrown music to over 3 million commuters across 125 train stations and bus interchanges, elevating the daily commute experience through the arts.⁹


Figure 2: Staircase in Yew Lian Park¹⁰




Opportunity: A Creative Economy


The creative economy refers to the knowledge-based economy of creative assets and their role in economic growth. The third pillar of Our SG Arts Plan hopes to develop Singapore’s creative economy, with three priorities of action outlined to this end:


  1. Innovating business approaches to enhance its visibility and increase the number of jobs for the arts and related industries;

  2. Fostering artistic excellence by developing capabilities and pathways for enduring careers in the arts;

  3. Broadening global engagement by cultivating a globally connected arts sector and positioning Singapore as a creative hub.


Innovating Business Approaches

Changes in digital technology have had vast impacts on the arts ecosystem. For example, the arts have been made more accessible through accelerated digitalisation. The increase in digital direct-to- consumer platforms is also disrupting traditional mediums and business models.


It has thus become crucial to capitalise on trends in technology to develop a thriving art industry. To this end, NAC has been researching current and emerging revenue trends and identifying best practices for local adoption. Key areas include exploring how to monetise Singapore’s creative intellectual property for commercial development (e.g., film rights and merchandising) and how to leverage digital technologies such as online publishing and distribution platforms to increase the distribution and consumption of the arts (e.g., ebooks and NFTs).¹¹ 


NAC has also embarked on collaborations at the intersection of the arts and technology. Collaborating with Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, NAC launched the Performing Arts x Tech Lab 2023.¹² This initiative facilitates innovation and experimentation in adopting technology for the arts. The Lab is designed to unite artists and technologists, fostering transformative artistic creation, enhancing artistic practice, and exploring innovative forms of expression. This initiative also provides support to practitioners in the performing arts or those involved in performance. It will encourage collaboration with technologists, experimentation, prototyping, and research and development. This ultimately seeks to ensure that the arts in Singapore can continue to innovate and develop to generate more economic benefit.


Fostering Artistic Excellence

The Skills Framework for Arts (specifically in Arts Education and Technical Theatre & Production) advocates for skills mastery and career advancement to build a proficient core of practitioners in the arts industry.¹³ This includes Self-Employed Persons, in recognition of the prevalence of freelance or gig work in the arts. Developed collaboratively by NAC, SkillsFuture Singapore, Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), and industry partners, the framework provides crucial information on career pathways, job roles, as well as existing and emerging skills. By mapping out potential career paths in the arts, the Skills Framework for Arts seeks to increase visibility on the various career options and opportunities available in the arts.


Figure 3: Skill Framework for Arts showcasing job functions of a prop designer¹⁴



Under Our SG Arts Plan, plans have also been made to enhance the Arts Resource Hub (ARH) with a focus on learning and development. This is achieved through creating modular learning resources for self-paced learning, fostering peer learning opportunities, and collaborating with training providers to introduce new courses in priority skillsets within the arts. This includes incorporating in-demand digital skills into Pre-Employment Training and collaborating with arts IHLs to ensure that arts graduates possess digital proficiency. Plans also include curating a suite of shared resources with technology solutions to support organisational operations and processes. Moreover, there will be an expansion of the network of technology experts, consultants, and service providers to assist the arts sector in keeping pace with digitalisation. 


Through an emphasis on upskilling, Our SG Arts Plan hopes to develop a strong and skilled workforce to support the creative economy and ensure further growth. These are timely the sharp growth expected in the creative economy. G20 Insights predicts that the creative economy could account for 10% of global GDP by 2030 while Deloitte forecasts up to 40% growth in creative sectors by 2030.¹⁵


Broadening Global Engagement

Internationalisation serves as a pathway for artists to expand their reach and gain recognition globally. Through extensive research on target overseas markets,¹⁶ NAC hopes to unlock new opportunities for local artists and arts companies. Supporting local artists and art companies in global markets will ensure that they will be able to attain growth on a larger scale. 


Beyond exploring new markets,¹⁷ NAC seeks to position Singapore as a key cultural city and hub in the region. To attract premier art exhibitions, performances, and events to Singapore, NAC aims to establish the city as a central node for arts and culture in Asia. This includes identifying and creating thought leadership platforms such as conferences and fairs.


International collaboration will also be useful in bolstering capabilities in art-making, arts and technology, and research. NAC hopes to embark on collaborations with esteemed international organisations, including UNESCO, the International Council of Museums, and the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies. By engaging these stakeholders, NAC aims to establish thought leadership, contribute to knowledge-building, and cultivate expertise in the region. 


Will Our SG Arts Plan Succeed?


Strengths of Our SG Arts Plan


A key feature of Our SG Arts Plan is its emphasis on incorporating insights from data so that policies and plans enacted can be designed to be more impactful. Data has been used to understand public perception of the arts and the impact the arts have had on health, education and community building. Through these insights, policymakers and funders are better able to gauge the multifaceted impacts arts have on society. There is also the possibility of such data enabling constant refinements of current policy to keep up with upcoming technologies and trends. There have also been plans made to conduct Data Insight Clinics with self-employed persons and arts organisations.¹⁸ This will enable self-employed persons to better cater their offerings based on audience segments’ interests and perceptions. 


Our SG Arts Plan also synergises well with its predecessor, Our SG Arts Plan (2018-2022). In particular, there has been a strong focus on adopting new technologies for art-making and outreach efforts. There has also been a sustained commitment to taking Singapore’s art beyond our shores. 


Challenges Facing Our SG Arts Plan


A challenge faced by Our SG Arts Plan is garnering public support. Despite a rise in interest in the arts from 31 percent in 2021 to 34 percent in 2022, there has to be more buy-in from the Singaporean public in the local arts scene.¹⁹ 


A commonly cited barrier to engagement was a lack of familiarity towards local artists and performers with 33 percent of individuals citing this concern. A lack of awareness of arts and cultural events was also cited by 23 percent of those surveyed.²⁰ Our SG Arts Plan has set out to tackle this by nurturing interest in the arts from childhood to sustain lifelong audiences and infusing arts everywhere amongst many other plans.


As the name suggests, Our SG Arts Plan is not simply isolated to those in the arts industry or the policymakers involved. It requires support from all members of the public who should be more forthcoming in their support for our arts scene. 


Conclusion


Our SG Arts Plan (2023-2027) is a comprehensive and forward-looking roadmap launched by the NAC to shape Singapore's arts landscape over the next five years. Rooted in a consultative approach, the plan reflects the aspirations of over 16,500 stakeholders, including artists, cultural organisations, private and public sector partners, and the general public.


While there is a promising rise in interest in the arts, challenges such as a lack of familiarity with local artists and events persist. Tackling these challenges will thus determine the success of Our SG Arts Plan since it hinges on the ongoing support and engagement of the Singaporean public at its core. Time will tell whether the plan’s effectiveness in achieving its objectives, thus securing a vibrant and thriving arts ecosystem in Singapore.


MAJU PE_2024_05_Grooving With The Times_ Our SG Arts Plan (2023 - 2027) - Google Docs
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This Policy Explainer was written by members of MAJU. MAJU is an independent, youth-led organisation that focuses on engaging Singaporean youths in a long-term research process to guide them in jointly formulating policy ideas of their own. 


By sharing our unique youth perspectives, MAJU hopes to contribute to the policymaking discourse and future of  Singapore.


 
³ Ibid.
⁴ Ibid.
⁵ Ibid.
⁶ Catch SG. n.d. “Catch SG.” Catch – All things arts and culture. Accessed January 18, 2024. https://www.catch.sg/.
⁷ Catch. n.d. “Find the perfect Catch-recommended curated events for Singapore Art Week 2024!” catch.sg. Accessed January 18, 2024. https://www.catch.sg/Article/SAW-curated-events.
⁸ Housing and Development Board. 2023. “Lively Places Programme.” HDB. https://www.hdb.gov.sg/community/getting-involved/lively-places-programme.
⁹ SMRT. 2023. “Media Release - NAC and SMRT kickstart strategic partnership with a nationwide roll-out of Hear65's 'I Play SG Music' campaign to bring local music to over 3 million commuters daily.” SMRT Corporation Ltd. https://www.smrt.com.sg/Announcements/articleid/media-release-nac-and-smrt-kickstart-strategic-partnership-with-a-nationwide-roll-out-of-hear65s-i-play-sg-music-campaign-to-bring-local-music-to-over-3-million-commuters-daily.
¹⁰ Urban Redevelopment Authority. “Urban Redevelopment Authority Annual Report 2022-2023.” 2023. URA. https://www.ura.gov.sg/-/media/Corporate/Resources/Publications/Annual-Reports/PDFs/AnnualReport_2022-2023.pdf
¹¹ National Arts Council. “Our SG Arts Plan (2023-2027).”
¹² Ibid.
¹³ National Arts Council. 2023. “Skills Framework for Arts (Technical Theatre & Production) A Guide to Occupation and Skills.” https://www.nac.gov.sg/docs/default-source/skills-framework-documents/nac-skills-framework-for-arts-(tt-p)-annex.pdf?sfvrsn=41046e2_2.
¹⁴ Ibid.
¹⁵ Bogachev, Igor. 2023. “How The Growing Creative Economy Will Soon Devour The Real Economy.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2023/05/16/how-the-growing-creative-economy-will-soon-devour-the-real-economy/?sh=7942bb0574bc.
¹⁶ National Arts Council. “Our SG Arts Plan (2023-2027).”
¹⁷ Ibid
¹⁸ Ibid
¹⁹ National Arts Council. 2023. “Overview of Population Survey on the Arts.” National Arts Council. https://www.nac.gov.sg/resources/research/population-survey--on-the-arts/overview-of-population-survey-on-the-arts.
²⁰ Ibid.

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