The evolving COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all of Singapore including the arts and culture. Since 13 March 2020, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has announced enhanced border restrictions and travel advisories, as well as additional precautionary measures and stricter safe distancing measures, to reduce the risk of further local transmission of COVID-19. Many other countries have also announced border and travel restrictions due to COVID-19.
The National Arts Council (NAC) has released an advisory notice to all arts groups and practitioners (Annex), and will continue to update this based on relevant government advisories. NAC urges all in the arts community to obtain accurate information from the NAC website (www.nac.gov.sg); Self Employed Persons (SEPs) in the arts and related creative fields can also access NAC’s Arts Resource Hub (ARH) website (www.artsresourcehub.sg).
NAC recognises that the arts community has been affected by COVID-19, and acknowledges the concerns reflected by many arts practitioners and organisations. All arts and culture stakeholders are encouraged to take this opportunity to upskill and/or grow their organisational capabilities, and position themselves for the post COVID-19 recovery. In addition to broad-based measures announced during Budget 2020, the Support and Stabilisation Package includes two specific schemes to support the arts community during this period. Applications for NAC’s Capability Development Scheme for the Arts (CDSA) are open from 16 March to 15 June 2020. Arts practitioners and organisations also enjoy an additional 30% subsidy for venue rental and associated costs for arts and culture activities at our national cultural institutions, including productions, workshops and masterclasses, taking place from 7 March to 30 June 2020. NAC will continue our engagements with the arts community to consider other assistance to cushion the impact of COVID-19 on our stakeholders. Details of both schemes are available on the NAC website.
NAC as commissioner of the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA), has assessed the current situation together with Arts House Limited (AHL) and its Festival Director, Gaurav Kripalani. As a significant number of SIFA programmes comprise international acts, the current border and travel restrictions have severely impacted festival planning. To ensure the safety and well-being of our audiences and performers, programmes would also need to be further adjusted to put in place safe distancing measures. Given the impact to the overall festival experience for audiences, NAC supports the decision of AHL and its Festival Director not to stage SIFA 2020 from 15 to 31 May 2020.
Notwithstanding this decision, NAC believes that every effort should be made to continue the creation and enjoyment of arts and culture experiences with the necessary precautionary and safe distancing measures. The arts and culture can inspire us and elevate our spirits, especially during challenging times like these. Therefore, NAC welcomes the SIFA Festival Director’s proposal to continue working with our local arts groups commissioned for SIFA 2020 (namely Nine Years Theatre, The Finger Players, The Necessary Stage and Toy Factory Productions), to rethink and replace elements of their programmes so that audiences can look forward to new experiences – such as webcasts, behind-the-scenes profiling, work-in-progress showings, as well as digital conversations – in the coming months.
NAC will also continue to work closely with the arts community to get through these challenging times. Together with the arts community, we will explore different ways of bringing the arts to audiences such as through digital platforms. ~ Low Eng Teong, Deputy Chief Executive (Sector Development), National Arts Council