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New CEO for for National Arts Council and New MICA Appointment



        The Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts has named Mr Benson Puah as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Arts Council (NAC) with effect from 1 August 2009. Mr Puah will concurrently be the CEO of The Esplanade Co Ltd. He succeeds Mr Lee Suan Hiang who will be appointed as Executive Director of the Arts and Culture Development Office, a newly created office under the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA). Mr Lee will also be Senior Advisor to NAC and the National Heritage Board (NHB).

Mr Lee Suan Hiang

2.     Mr Lee was appointed as CEO of NAC on 15 October 2003.During his term of office, Mr Lee adopted a holistic cluster development approach to build a robust arts ecosystem. A result of this is a vibrant arts scene today. From 2003 to 2008, the total number of arts activities doubled from 16,000 to 30,000 a year; and the number of arts societies and companies grew by two-thirds from 549 to 922. Today, more people are participating in the arts with 1 in 3 attending at least one arts event a year compared to 1 in 10 a decade ago.

3.     To make the arts accessible to everyone, Mr Lee launched the Arts for All Community Engagement Plan. He initiated many new national platforms to engage a wide spectrum of the community. These include the Singapore Biennale, Singapore Art Show, Noise Singapore and the District Arts Festivals.The Singapore Arts Festival 2009, which enjoyed its best results in 20 years, was revitalised to reach a three-fold increase in total attendance to 800,000. Existing platforms such as Singapore Writers Festival and the music and writing competitions have also been expanded in terms of scale and reach. NAC's focus on arts education, through its Arts Education Programme in partnership with the Ministry of Education, has gone a long way in developing interest in the arts from young.

4.     In the last six years, Mr Lee has strengthened NAC's provision of programmes, financial assistance schemes, arts housing and showcase platforms to develop the artistic and professional capabilities of Singapore artists and arts groups. New initiatives launched include the Arts Creation Fund to encourage artists to create new works; the International Arts Residency Programme to provide access to prestigious residencies overseas; the Traditional Arts Programme to advance the traditional arts in Singapore; and the 50Fifty co-publishing scheme to develop the literary arts publishing industry.

5.     Mr Lee has also played an instrumental role in forging partnerships with the private sector to bring more resources to the arts. Key initiatives launched include the arts adoption scheme, the Asia Pacific Brewery Foundation Inspire Programme and Keppel Nights, Singapore's first sustained subsidised ticketing scheme.

6.     On the world stage, Mr Lee has raised the profile of Singapore arts through enhanced cultural relations and his active leadership in international networks. He is the Deputy Chairman of the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies; and Chairman of the Asian Chapter of the Federation.Three editions of the successful Singapore Season were launched - New Zealand (2004), London (2005), and Beijing & Shanghai (2007) - and the first Singapore Showcase in Edinburgh will be held in August 2009. Singapore artists have been given more opportunities to venture overseas, including participation in Venice Biennale, the world's most established contemporary art show, and MIDEM, the world's most prestigious international music fair.Many artists have gained recognition and won awards at international arts events, the most recent being the Special Award conferred on Ming Wong for his work showcased in the Singapore Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale this year.

7.     In his new role in MICA, Mr Lee will lead and coordinate and foster greater community engagement and ownership for the arts, as well as step up efforts to promote a stronger culture of philanthropy. His vast experience and wide contacts in the public, business and cultural sectors will be brought to bear on his new responsibilities, bringing the cultural sector to new heights in terms of community ownership, corporate support and public consciousness of the arts and heritage.

8.     MICA wishes to thank Mr Lee Suan Hiang for his outstanding contributions to the NAC and welcomes him on board in MICA.

Mr Benson Puah

9.     Mr Benson Puah joined The Esplanade Co Ltd in July 1998. As its Chief Executive Officer, he is responsible for the overall development, management, programming and artistic direction of Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, one of the world's busiest performing arts centres.

10.     Mr Puah brought to Esplanade a passion for the arts matched by an international business perspective and an established career in green-field projects. Since Esplanade's opening in 2002, Mr Puah has led the team to build an annual calendar of quality programmes that span all genres with a special focus on community access and arts education.The centre today has a visitorship of over seven million annually.His direction continues to lead Esplanade to realise its vision as an arts centre for everyone.

11.     Prior to joining Esplanade, Mr Puah had 20 years of experience specialising in pioneering hospitality projects. An honours graduate in Hotel, Catering and Tourism Administration from the University of Surrey, UK, he embarked on an international career in the hospitality industry with leading luxury hotel companies in many of the major US, European and Asian cities.

12.     Mr Puah then ventured into the public sector, as Chief Executive of Sentosa Development Corporation. There, he spearheaded the repositioning of Sentosa as an attractive island resort getaway for Singaporeans and tourists, and was involved with the masterplanning of Sentosa Cove, a prestigious residential waterfront development. His next position was Chief Executive Officer of Temasia Health Pte Ltd, the international business and management arm of Health Corporation of Singapore, a government-linked company.

13.     Mr Puah is currently the Chair of the New York-based International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA), a prestigious membership association for leaders in the arts world. He is the first Asian to hold this appointment.He is also the Chair of the Association of Asia Pacific Performing Arts Centres (AAPPAC) and a member of various boards and committees. These include SISTIC, Parkway Trust Management Ltd (Parkway Life REIT), Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Association of Concert and Event Managers Singapore (ACEMS), Urban Redevelopment Authority's programmes for Architecture-Urban Design Excellence (AUDE) and Design Advisory Committee (DAC), Youth Olympic Games' Culture and Education Programme Advisory Committee, the NAC's Singapore Arts Festival Steering Committee and Redevelopment of Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall Steering Committee.

14.     A strong advocate of education, Mr Puah serves on several educational institutions. He is the Vice-Chairman of the Board of Governors of Anglo-Chinese Schools (ACS) and the ACS (Independent) Board of Management, President of the ACS Old Boys Association Management Committee, Chairman of the Curriculum Development Advisory Committee, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Department of Arts and Education, and member of the Governing Board of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.

24 JULY 2009