Speech by Minister Lee Boon Yang at the 2004 NAC Scholarships & Bursaries Presentation Ceremony



I am very happy to be here this morning to present the scholarships and bursaries administered by the National Arts Council. This year, NAC will award scholarships and bursaries totaling about $750,000 to 65 recipients to help you pursue studies in performing arts, literary arts, visual arts, arts management, as well as technical design and production.

Singapore's art and culture scene is vibrant and exciting. Public interest and appreciation for the arts has grown. Attendance at arts events has risen. Today, nearly one in four persons attends such events. Eight million people visited the Esplanade in the first year of its opening. The Esplanade played host to 1451 performing arts activities and 65 visual arts exhibitions. Our museums presenting arts and heritage collections have also received a boost since the opening the Asian Civilisation Museum at Empress Place. Last year, our museums received 480,000 visitors. This year, we expect the number of visitors to exceed 600,000.

Climate for the Arts

The climate is right for Singaporeans with talents in the arts. Our vision of becoming a global city for the arts has seen the development of major arts infrastructure such as the Esplanades, the ACM at Empress Place and the redevelopment of the Singapore History Museum. More importantly, we are now focused on nurturing and developing our artistic talent.

Today there are many more opportunities for pursuing education and training in the arts in local institutions. The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts has already moved into its new campus with state-of-the-arts facilities for nurturing our artistic talents. LaSalle SIA College of Arts will soon move to a new campus not far from NAFA. This is set to become another iconic building for the arts. Next year, the NTU's School of Art, Design and Media will take in its first batch of students. NUS's Yong Siew Toh Conservatorium of Music is already in full swing taking in talented local musicians as well as students from the region. The Government has decided to establish a new School for the Arts for students age between 13 to 18. This Arts School is targeted to open in 2007 and when it does, it will provide a unique opportunity to groom young talents and ensure that they have every opportunity to achieve their full potential. Singapore will become an island of opportunities for those who are artistically talented who will play an increasingly important role in our arts and cultural development.

Recent achievements of young Singaporeans paint an optimistic picture of the strong potential of our youth in the arts. In July, there were at least three achievements worthy of mention. A 14-year old St Margaret's Secondary School student, Janani Sridhar, became the first Singaporean to win a top prize at the annual Llangollen International Musical Eisteddford in Wales. I understand this competition is billed as the Musical Olympics. In the same month, Clare Yeo won the Gina Bachauer Scholarship Piano Competition at the Julliard School in New York. Amanda Chong of Raffles Girls' Secondary School, won the top prize in the Commonwealth Essay Competition, which drew 5,300 entries from 52 countries. They have certainly done Singapore proud with their achievements.

The well-established UOB Painting of the Year Competition also reported a landmark year with record entries in its Junior Category. 75% of its contestants, ranging from 3-17 years old, were first time contestants.

NAC's Arts Education Award saw an 80% increase in applications this year. This reflects that schools here are increasingly looking beyond academic performance to a more holistic education that includes the development of aesthetic and cultural appreciation.

These trends and highlights augur well for our effort to transform Singapore into a global city for the arts. With continued effort from all stakeholders, including government, corporate citizens, community and most of all our arts talents, I am confident we can achieve our goal of developing a vibrant arts and culture environment in Singapore.

Scholarships and Bursaries

Since NAC's inception in 1991, some 650 artists and students have benefited from NAC's Scholarships and Bursaries. It is heartening to know that many have completed their studies and are continuing to contribute to the arts. They include Haresh Sharman, a Young Artist Award recipient and currently resident playwright with The Necessary Stage, Cheah Mei Sing, currently a full-time dancer with the Singapore Dance Theatre, Sebastian Chun who is actively involved in set and costume design for various arts companies, Chan Yoong Han, a full-time violinist with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and Danny Tan, artistic director of his own dance company, Odyssey Dance Theatre. NAC is very happy to have been able to contribute to their artistic development.

We hope the award of scholarships and bursaries to this year's recipients will encourage you to pursue your dream and passion for the arts. We hope to contribute to your personal journey to scale the peaks and to achieve success in the artistic realms of your choice. In time to come, we hope you will become the model for a new and younger generation of artistically talented Singaporeans and serve as our leading lights in the arts arena.


Finally, I would like to congratulate all recipients of the NAC Scholarships and Bursaries. Besides talent, you have displayed passion and commitment which are critical qualities for achieving success. I understand many have made personal sacrifices in pursuing to your artistic calling. May I take this opportunity to wish you every success in your endeavours as you set out to learn and to excel in your art.

Thank you.

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