Arts-Based Community Engagement in Singapore: Success Stories, Challenges, and the Way Forward

Arts-Based Community Engagement in Singapore: Success Stories, Challenges, and the Way Forward

Justin Lee (National University of Singapore, Singapore) and Jui Liang Sim (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1727-6.ch018
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Socially engaged artists have to work within a landscape of state-sponsored grassroots organizations and controlled community development in Singapore. This has created both constraints and opportunities for artists. Arts-based community engagement that focuses on building national identity and inter-racial harmony receives much government support and funding. Community art that helps support therapy, health and social care are also welcomed by the arts administrators, social service providers, hospitals and community organizations. Art that is politicized or calls into question government policies are discouraged, and the socially conscious artists who use art for advocacy or public education often have to negotiate with the state where these boundaries should lie. Nonetheless, a strong supportive ecosystem for socially engaged artists is growing in Singapore, made up of intermediary organizations, capability builders and market aggregators.
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Arts And Cultural Policies: Economic Development And Community Participation For Nation Building

Concerted state involvement has played a critical role in the direction and significance of the arts in Singapore. It is necessary to understand the nature of arts and cultural policy and the history of state-supported community development in Singapore to fully appreciate the context within which local community artists operate. As sociologists Victoria Alexander and Anne Bowler (2014) point out, government policies set the opportunities and constraints confronting the arts, which include funding, the amount of institutional support provided, and whether the arts may be used “as a stand-in for other policy agendas” since governments are “part of the wider societal shift toward the enshrinement of neo-liberalism” (p 8).

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