Notes of first meeting of the Feedback Group on Arts and Culture


Date: 9 Jan 2001

Time: 7.00 pm

Venue: MCDS Singa Room

Present: 11 members


1          Introduction and getting acquainted


1.1           The chairperson, Professor Yu Chun Yee, invited members to introduce themselves. He noted that the group was a diverse one as members came from various backgrounds, including visual and performance arts, and he hoped that this would result in a cross-fertilisation of ideas.


1.2           As the present group is rather small, the chairperson urged the members to invite friends or colleagues who have interests in arts and culture to join the group. In particular, he would like to see representatives from the literary arts.


2          Appointment of Vice-chairperson and Secretary


2.1           The chairperson asked for nominations and invited Mr Leong Chun Hong (Miao Hua Chinese Art Society) to be the vice-chairperson. Mr Leong Chun Hong will assume the role of the chairperson should Professor Yu be absent.


2.2           The secretary of the group, who will record minutes of the meetings, shall be appointed in the next meeting.


3          Setting the focus of the group for the year


3.1           After careful consideration, the group decided to focus their discussion on two general issues: (a) Making appreciation of arts and culture an integral part of life for every Singaporean, and (b) Increasing funding for arts and culture


4          Appreciation of arts and culture


            The group felt that the appreciation of arts and culture can be inculcated in the life of every Singaporean through the following ways:


4.1           Promoting arts education:


          The members asserted that arts education should start from young, preferably from primary school, especially in view of the pervasive influence of popular culture. If the appreciation of arts is not instilled in the young generation during their formative years, they might grow up having a limited and stunted perception of arts and culture, or of life in general. The members hoped that with the 30% reduction in the content of the school curriculum, the arts could be incorporated as a tool to cultivate creativity in our schools. They opined that arts education would fail if parents, teachers and students did not realise that arts education was crucial to the overall development in a person. They urged the Ministry of Education to seriously consider making arts education a part of the core curriculum.


          There were several suggestions on how the arts could be promoted in our education system. Some suggested that students be encouraged to take an appreciation course as part of their studies and given credits for attending a play or a concert. Others felt that the Government must acknowledge the importance of promoting the study of the arts at the tertiary level. Some expressed concerns on the ways the arts and heritage were being taught to our students. They felt that there should be ways to make the appreciation of the arts a fun and interesting experience.


          The group also felt very strongly that teachers trained to teach arts subjects should concentrate and specialise on their arts subjects, and not be deployed to teach other non-arts subjects, such as languages or sciences.


4.2           Making arts and culture more accessible and  intelligible to the mass public


          The group was concerned that the ordinary man on the street might find fine arts too difficult or formidable to grasp. Thus, they suggested that artists should portray their works in a more palatable fashion to the public. Media channels like television and radio could also be used to promote and popularise the appreciation of arts and culture. Some even suggested the setting up of websites to promote arts and culture. 


         One member commented that housing board heartlanders might be more concerned with pressing bread-and-butter issues then with appreciating arts and culture. It will take time for the arts appreciation to be internalised into the lives of Singaporeans. He cautioned against using an over pragmatic or practical approach to achieve this objective. He felt that a softer and indirect manner might be better and more natural.


5          Increasing funding for arts and culture


5.1           In a commercialised and results-driven society as Singapore, it is difficult for the arts groups to obtain and justify sponsorship. Some members commented that it was mainly due to efforts of individuals who keep arts alive in Singapore. They lamented that although we had many talented people in the arts, few of them developed the arts as a career because of lack of funding. They urged the government to give more funds to more artists to develop their talents on a full time basis, instead of giving funds on a project basis. Otherwise, smaller arts groups are often left out of the economic pie.


5.2           One member cautioned that in order to get more government funds, artists might have to shape their works to fit government guidelines and thus compromise their artistic license and integrity.




6          Schedule of next meeting


6.1           Members agreed to meet at bimonthly intervals, and the next meeting is scheduled on 7 March 2001.


6.2           The meeting ended at 9.30 pm.


Drafted by:                              Yeo Wee Seng (Executive officer, Feedback Unit)

Approved by:                          Prof Yu Chun Yee (Chairperson)