Championing the Arts

by Lili Li
Portrait photography by Vernon Wong
27 Aug 2018

National Arts Council’s Deputy CEO, Mr. Paul Tan, explains

Before joining the National Arts Council, where he is currently Deputy CEO, Mr. Paul Tan was a broadcast journalist. He had also worked at the Singapore Tourism Board, and is versed in rolling out public campaigns. More importantly, his involvement in the Singapore arts scene – as programmer, administrator, writer or simply a member of the audience – spans years. Today, he claims that he “remains energized by the NAC’s mission in
championing diverse and distinctive arts that inspire our people, connect communities and position Singapore globally”.

As Deputy CEO at the National Arts Council (NAC), Mr. Tan leads his team in engaging with artists, arts groups, government agencies and industry partners. Together they develop and nurture an environment where people can experience and appreciate the arts as an integral part of their lives.

This is not exactly alien territory to Mr. Tan, who previously oversaw the literary and visual arts sectors at NAC. In that capacity, he served as director of the Singapore Writers Festival, and was responsible for the festival’s artistic direction, production and organization. At the same time, he was the director involved in driving the development of the visual arts.


Sustaining A Giving Culture

The National Arts Council (NAC) recognizes that raising awareness of the value of the arts is instrumental in building and sustaining a giving culture, Mr. Tan says. “At NAC, we also strongly believe that private patronage is one of the ways that can help our arts groups diversify their income sources, ensuring a sustainable arts scene for the long term.” For this, NAC has sought to raise the profile of arts philanthropy to encourage private patronage in Singapore.

In a study undertaken by NAC to understand philanthropic patterns in Singapore, which completed in 2016, it was found that majority of non-arts donors surveyed were unaware that the arts needed support, and had not been approached directly to donate to the arts, Mr. Tan shares. 

To this end, NAC launched the arts advocacy campaign, A World Filled with the Arts, to address and break down these key barriers. The campaign seeks to highlight the value of the arts and its impact on the lives of Singaporeans through public on-ground activations around the island, a dedicated microsite, and prominent advocates in the arts scene. “With more awareness about the value of the arts to our lives, we hope that more in Singapore will do their part in building a sustainable arts landscape.”


Building Awareness and Interest

Since its launch in March, A World Filled with the Arts has garnered over S$245,000, which is 25 per cent of the $1 million that the NAC hopes to achieve through this campaign.

“As the first step to increasing arts philanthropy is to build awareness and interest in the arts, in addition to tracking donations, we are also tracking public engagement with the campaign through visitorship figures for our on-ground activations, microsite and the donation site,” Mr. Tan says. 

A World Filled with the Arts is part of a long-term effort to raise awareness and interest in the arts. “We hope to continue inspiring more people to recognize a collective stake in developing Singapore’s vibrant arts scene, and understand that every amount given helps to safeguard its longevity for current and future generations. 

“The arts transcend languages and ages. It provides opportunities for exchange between communities, allows us to understand each other better, and helps us express our thoughts and feelings. The impact of the arts to society is well known.”

Mr. Tan adds that the arts can address social
issues, encourage social mixing, and help people reflect on their place in the community, the nation and the larger humanity. “With more people valuing the role of the arts and understanding how it’s connected to the soul of Singapore, we hope that more Singaporeans will do their part in showing their support.”


Every Bit Counts

Support for the arts takes many forms. A person can catch a local production, read a book by a homegrown author or collect a work by a Singaporean artist. “But equally important, you can contribute financially. It is a common misconception that you can only give to the arts if you are extremely wealthy or a large corporate organization.

“In reality – and this is why we are rolling out this campaign – anybody can contribute and every bit counts. This support will go a long way to realizing a world filled with the arts.”

The Council is committed to cultivate a culture of giving to the arts as this helps to diversify sources of income to arts groups, thereby ensuring the long-term viability of the Singapore arts scene. Donors keen on making transformational gifts will have more opportunities to do so, with upcoming arts infrastructure projects including the Esplanade’s Waterfront Theatre and the revamp of Singapore Art Museum.

“At the National Arts Council, we are also open to starting conversations with anyone interested to explore new opportunities to support the arts. Feel free to reach us at”

Visit the campaign website at for more information about A World Filled with the Arts and online fundraising campaigns by local arts organizations