Small arts groups can tap $4m stART Fund by NAC and private sector

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong speaks at The Sustain the Arts (stART) Fund launch at Victoria Theatre on Jan 13, 2021.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong speaks at The Sustain the Arts (stART) Fund launch at Victoria Theatre on Jan 13, 2021.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Small arts groups in Singapore can get more help with programme costs and skills training, thanks to a new fund that encourages arts patronage.

The Sustain the Arts (stART) Fund, an initiative by the National Arts Council (NAC) and the private sector, was launched on Wednesday (Jan 13).

It has raised nearly $4 million from donors such as the Tote Board and hedge fund founder Danny Yong.About 20 arts organisations have already received sums in the range of $20,000 to $50,000, to fund their programmes and help them become charities or Institutions of a Public Character (IPC).

Mr Edwin Tong, the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, said his ministry and the arts council had since last year been "studying ways to encourage and enhance art philanthropy in Singapore, particularly for the small arts groups to enhance their viability and sustainability in the longer term".

The fund supports "programmes with a strong community impact that enable more people to enjoy the arts, programmes with digitally enhanced arts experiences, as well as programmes to encourage reflection and consideration of Singapore's own cultural identity", said Mr Tong at the launch at Victoria Theatre.

He added that the stART initiative also helps arts organisations scale up to charity or IPC status. It will run programmes to help them hone their skills in areas such as data collection, impact reporting, fundraising and donor stewardship.

These would be developed with the Centre for Non-Profit Leadership, National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, Lasalle College of the Arts and other partners.

The stART initiative was first mentioned in Parliament last March. It gathers donations from corporations and individuals, which are matched by the MCCY's Cultural Matching Fund where eligible.

It aims to grow the $4 million sum - which is inclusive of dollar-for-dollar matching by the Cultural Matching Fund - to $10 million by March 2023.

To be eligible for support, arts groups should not be IPCs; must be registered with the Commissioner of Charities, Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority or Registry of Societies; and have a total operating expenditure of less than $1 million a year.

Some of the beneficiaries so far are dance company Apsaras Arts, inclusive arts movement Superhero Me and Paper Monkey Theatre.

Investor Pierre Lorinet, who chairs stART's committee and has also pledged money to the fund, said: "While reputable names of larger arts groups are easily recognisable, we must not forget the value that small entities bring to the table. Singapore's rich ecosystem thrives with small arts organisations as its cornerstone.

"Even as emerging artists continue to make strides and contribute to the diverse arts scene, the pandemic has made it even more apparent that this is not something they can do alone. It takes collective action to sustain and grow Singapore's arts, and this is why the stART Fund exists."

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