For many philanthropists, it seems right to contribute to the alleviation of poverty or to education for underprivileged youth. These giving choices are driven by a desire to help the most disadvantaged in our society. But there is another sector, often overlooked, but well worth considering – the arts.
In Singapore, the arts sector receives only 7.1% of total philanthropic giving*. Donors may perceive the arts to be elitist, or marginal to the public good. Or they may suppose that supporting the arts is the responsibility of the state. But neither is really the case.
Presented in the right way, and in the right place, the arts is open access. The arts bridges barriers and cultural norms. It is a leveller, appealing to all, and at the same time, elevating quality of life by inspiring the individual and strengthening a sense of community.
Well-developed community arts programmes provide opportunities for marginalised segments of our society to come together through activities, events and festivals – building social cohesion and opening doors for young and old. Experts also agree that in the 21st century, as technology replaces human hands and brains across industries, creativity will become a defining attribute for young people seeking employment and fulfilling careers.
In Singapore today, where the arts is emerging as a positive force for good in our community, we see this energy and creativity being encouraged in myriad ways.
Take for instance ArtReach – an initiative by the National Arts Council (NAC) to bring the arts to the social sector for wellness, intervention and rehabilitation. It supports collaborations and projects between artists and nonprofits to achieve social outcomes, such as building resilience and purpose among youth-at-risk, rekindling life and engagement amongst isolated elders and developing self-expression and creativity in children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
There are many who might not have the opportunity to engage with the arts and experience its tangible power to transform and enrich lives. The Esplanade works closely with artists and nonprofits to bring meaningful arts programmes and projects to over 10,000 beneficiaries in Singapore every year – including seniors, vulnerable children, at-risk-youth, persons with special needs as well as beneficiaries from low income households.
The Singapore Repertory Theatre also runs a theatre-based social initiative, providing young children whose parents are incarcerated with essential reading and pro-social skills through storytelling workshops, theatre visits and reading lessons.
ArtsWok – an arts-based community development organisation – designs and runs community-based arts projects that create positive social change, including youth theatre-making, puppetry engagement for seniors and a community arts project on end-of-life issues.
At CFS, we see how the arts impact directly the lives of children, youths, the elderly and the marginalised – many of the groups that our donors care and are passionate about. One of our donors, UBS, looks to the arts to touch the lives of children with special needs through funding a Diversity in Abilities training programme. Children are coached in artistic mediums from music to drama by local artists over 14 weeks, with their achievements celebrated in an exhibition and concert. Goli – The Moving Theatre, a project by Drama Box partly funded by contributions from CFS’s donors, is an example of an initiative directly targeted to our heartlands, engaging the community on issues in an imaginative way.
The arts provide a platform for many different voices to be expressed, and for many minds to be engaged. To donors, who are already involved in education, health or social causes, we say expand your reach, and consider supporting this fertile and dynamic giving sector.
Head of Development & Strategy
Community Foundation of Singapore
* Source: Commissioner of Charities Annual Report 2016
Photo: Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay