艺术在我国人民的文化认同上，扮演着重要的角色，持续永恒地培养本地艺术观众正是国家艺术理事会推出的“新加坡艺术拓展蓝图” 的重点工作之一。 从建国至今，我国的文化艺术发展可说是一日千里，艺术的普及和推广也取得了显著的成就。在学校，除了知识技能外，提倡学生的个性与全面发展，让所有学生都需要上艺术课，是“全人教育”的一部分。艺术能够激发学生的好奇心、开拓他们的创意思维。当青少年展现出在艺术方面的才华和天赋的时候， 我们可以为他们提供更专业的训练平台，希望他们有朝一日可以与世界级的艺术家媲美。
Achieving Arts Excellence in Singapore
It has been heartening to observe agencies from different sectors across government; arts and cultural companies and enterprises coming together to introduce a series of arts and culture programmes for Singaporeans of all ages. As we focus on creating access and opportunities to arts of different forms, and also engaging in deeper and more sustained appreciation of arts, I believe that we should all come together to achieve artistic excellence that inspires.
The arts have always played an important role in defining our nation’s cultural identity in Singapore. The arts bring diverse communities together. The arts scene has been thriving, as artists chart professional careers and arts groups grow in strength. And the SG Arts plan maps the National Arts Council’s (NAC) priorities over the next five years to bring Singapore’s arts development to new heights. Our arts community has also achieved significant success with distinctive works that have resonated with audiences both locally and overseas. These are pursuit of arts excellence. And these local talents are our nation’s pride and define our nation’s distinctive identity.
In schools, our students are exposed to arts programme, as part of holistic education. Be it music lessons or aesthetics lessons, these are part of a student’s curriculum. Also, the National Arts Council – Arts Education Programme provides all students with access to quality arts education experiences.
In terms of Co-Curriculum Activities, students can choose the arts CCA, where they have opportunities to take part in the Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) Presentation, as well as the annual SYF Celebrations. In 2012, the SYF Central Judging was rebranded as a SYF Arts Presentation, the award structure revamp was put in place by the MOE to emphasis enjoyment of the arts rather than the pursuit of awards. This has provided access and opportunity, increasing the participation rates in performing arts.
For students who are more talented and seek deeper engagement in arts, there is the Artist-In-School Scheme. This scheme supports sustained partnerships between Singapore Arts Professionals, such as musicians, dancers, and writers to co-develop customised arts experiences that deepen students’ engagement in and through the arts.
The arts can play a significant role in culture-building, community life and city planning. As society becomes more diverse, the arts can help deepen understanding and bridge differences across communities. I believe that artistic excellence and creating access and opportunities to arts for the masses, are two different tracks.
Therefore, I have 3 recommendations:
1) Explore the possibilities of transforming our arts academies into full-fledge Arts University
The arts must energise and excite Singaporeans, bring people together and reflect what Singapore represents to a global community. In Our SG Arts Plan, one of our key strategic thrusts was “Singaporeans are empowered to create, present and appreciate excellent art”. But where will our creators of excellent art come from? In pursuit of access and opportunities to arts, we should not forget we ought to reach the pinnacle of excellence.
In order to groom our own local pool of artists and talents, we ought to have reputable arts institutions. We already have the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at National University of Singapore, founded in 2003; the arts institutions - LASALLE College of the Arts, founded in 1986; Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, established in 1938, and School of the Arts (SOTA), founded in 2008. These are already reputable institutions, however more can be achieved.
For instance, as the first pre-tertiary arts school in Singapore, SOTA’s programme allows students to take one arts subject, in addition to the usual academic subjects taught in mainstream schools. At the end of their six years, students graduate with an IB diploma. However, it was reported in May 2017 that only three in 10 SOTA graduating students went on to pursue arts-related university courses. An article then raised questions about the effectiveness of SOTA’s programmes in preparing students for a career in the arts.
As an aspiring Arts Nation, I believe that we should have our own Arts University. By transforming or upgrading our art academies, this will draw local and overseas talents into enrolling into these institutions. At present, we do partner prestigious universities overseas; send our students overseas on exchange programmes to broaden their horizon. All these are important. Competitive benchmarking is ambitious and it will help one to grow and learn more about their competitors. We have to nurture local talents. Thus, these efforts will help create vibrancy in the arts scene, heighten motivation amongst the arts practitioners and in the process, and spark off friendly contests to achieve excellence. I urge the government to explore the possibilities of transforming our arts academies like NAFA and LASALLE into full-fledge Arts University.
2) Establish a robust eco system to develop top notch artists
Singaporeans can be proud of our artists and arts groups winning international awards and being featured at leading arts venues and festivals around the world. I believe that there is a need to redefine our arts ecosystem, so as to for a greater platform for professional artistes, artistic director and arts manager.
We do have many top notch artists, Cultural Medallion and Young Artist Award recipients. NAFA has nurtured 13 recipients of the Cultural Medallion. Another 14 of their alumni have been presented the Young Artist Award. Also, many of their alumni have gone on to make their mark in the professional arts scene in Singapore and abroad. LASELLE, too, has her fair share of Cultural Medallions.
Perhaps we could recognise our cultural medallions more during National Arts events, and work closely with the different National Arts Flagship Companies, to groom and identify younger talents, then pass on the knowledge from one generation to the next.
Many of them started their music journey since young. They were nurtured by dedicated teachers and supportive parents. We will need to establish a robust eco system to develop top notch artists and management, who are equipped with strategic and critical thinking, to groom and nurture the next generation of finest artists. In achieving excellence, clear career pathways, programmes and platforms need to be in place, also leading them to join national arts flagship companies. This eco-system needs to be sustained.
3) Young Singaporeans in the arts scenes and future international award winners
In fact, we do already have young talented individuals in the arts scenes. Wong Kah Chun was the first Asian to win the prestigious international Mahler Conducting Competition for in 2016.Violinist Kam Ning has gone on to perform all over the world both as soloist and chamber musician. She was the Second Prizewinner at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 2001. 11-year-old Chloe Chua is the junior champion of the Menuhin International Violin Competition in 2018. 15 year-old Chen XinYu was admitted into the NAFA School of Young Talents at the age of 6. When she turned 8 years old, XinYu won the First Prize in the Junior Pipa Category of the Singapore National Chinese Music Competition 2012 organised by the National Arts Council.
All these are our young Singaporeans, and we should continue to track their performances in the local and international arts scenes. These young budding talents are the future of our arts scenes, and we will need more of them. What does the future hold for international arts winners in Singapore? To cultivate full-time artists and retain them, we need to have clearer career pathways, specialization that leads them into national arts flagship companies, after graduation. We will need the government; such as MOE, MCCY, NAC, the Universities and colleges, and art groups to strengthen their core and emphasis on the importance of outstanding artistic development.
The arts scene in Singapore is evolving. Not only seeking more Singaporeans to engage and participate in arts, I urge the government to rethink and reoffer, at the national level about how Singapore can achieve arts excellence and fly our Singapore flags high in the international scenes. Not only do we need artistes, we need to have qualified teachers, managers and directors, to keep the arts scenes vibrant and to foster the sustainability of the arts sector.
In conclusion, I would like to recommend that the government upgrade and transform arts institutions such as NAFA and LSALLE into full-fledge Arts University; establish a robust eco system to develop top notch artists and nurture local artists to serve better in the National arts flagship companies.