Artists disempowerment isn’t so much about state funding availability but how that funding is used, says Dr Richard Chua

Artists disempowerment isn’t so much about state funding availability but how that funding is used, says Dr Richard Chua

On Sunday (11 Oct), arts researcher Dr Richard Chua took to Facebook to explain the context in which he used the words “excessive” and “disempowerment” relating to two of his Facebook posts which TOC reported on.

One of the articles, published on Friday (9 October) relates to Dr Chua’s post in which he said that artists in Singapore have been “disempowered by excessive state funding” till the point where artists are unable to survive without state patronage.

Noting that TOC’s article misunderstood his original post, Dr Chua explained that he was actually talking about “disempowerment from long term reliance on state funding”, adding that the Singapore government has been consistently funding the arts.

In the article, we had also highlighted MP Carrie Tan’s remarks in Parliament during her adjournment motion where she called for more government support for the arts by proposing the extension of the Job Support Scheme (JSS) and creating a wage framework “so that artists are not subject to the devaluation of their work and race to the bottom ot get jobs”, on top of business mentorship and marketing training for artists and entertainers.

In response to Ms Tan, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), Ms Low Yen Ling outlined the various supports and schemes available for artists from the as the JSS, the Arts and Culture Resilience Package, and the Capability Development Scheme for the Arts as well as the Digital Presentation Grant (DPG) for the Arts.

Dr Chua explained in his post on Sunday, “The crux of the matter is not about funding availability. It is about how funding is used in art production.”

“For the performing arts in Singapore, the bulk of the cost goes into venue rental for rehearsal and performance, and professional fees,” he wrote, adding that “State funding is used fully for the production at hand and not for anything else, such as day to day running of the arts company. For others, a significant portion of their funding goes into the rental of arts spaces.”

This leave little leftover for the artists themselves.

Dr Chua went on to say that artists spend much of their time filling forms and writing proposals, which “breeds a culture of dependence on state funding”.

“As much as there are training courses to help artists to be more market savvy, Singapore’s definition of Creativity Industries as a design, advertising and commercial performances hub misses the point about the arts in Singapore, not to mention the constraint of a small market for the arts in Singapore,” said Dr Chua.

As such, Ms Low’s listing of the available support for artists doesn’t address the real challenges faced by artists in Singapore, asserted Dr Chua. He added that the limited time allocated in Parliament also makes it “impossible” to address these deep seated issues.

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