Preview: Aliwal Arts Centre

Following the successful launch of its first Arts Night Crawl last month, brand new arts center and residency Aliwal Arts Center is set to hold Lit Up 2013, which will further showcase its diverse tenant mix. Part of the National Arts Council (NAC)’s Framework For Art Spaces, that also launched Goodman Arts Centre in the east, some of its most noted residents include street artist SKLO and her collective Rscls, filmmakers Ho Tzu Nyen and Anthony Chen , multi-media artist Brian Gothong Tan and dance group Re-Dance Theatre, among more than 50 other arts groups and artists. We find out more from both NAC’s Deputy CEO Yvonne Tham and the artists themselves on what makes the arts center tick.

What makes the arts center such an exciting project?
Being within Kampong Glam opens up many creative possibilities for collaborations with its neighbors, which include the Malay Heritage Centre, Sultan Arts Village and Objectifs Centre for Photography and Filmmaking. Some of the tenants have mentioned that they have started conversations with the authorities and surrounding businesses/organizations to explore possible festivals in the district and other joint projects.  But it is also the heritage of this area, as well as the small cafes and fashion and creative businesses nearby, that I think provides an inspiring environment for the artists to be working in.

Why is providing spaces like this so important to the NAC?
Aliwal Arts Centre is the second development under NAC’s Framework For Art Spaces. It was important that the properties developed under this framework included a wide range of art spaces, from dedicated workspaces, to shared facilities such as multi-purpose halls and dance/music studios for short-term rental, and even F&B outlets. This is because the needs of our arts community are varied.  For example, having a dedicated workspace is important in helping some young artists and arts groups start up and gain a firmer footing, and hopefully, take off. For some companies that are more established, the dedicated workspace provides a level of stability for them to focus on strengthening their artistic work, and provides them a base to reach out to their audiences.

Will there be more spaces under the Framework program?
We are currently continuing to review the other properties under the old Arts Housing Scheme, and to see how else we can improve on existing facilities and possibly (re)develop some of the properties to better support an increasingly diverse arts sector. The Framework also talks about facilitating co-locations of artists and arts groups in community and even commercial spaces.  One such recent example is the co-location of the Singapore Dance Theatre within Bugis+ Mall, under the Community / Sports Facilities Scheme (CFS) that Urban Redevelopment Authority manages. We are looking to explore more of such arrangements, so as to open more options for our arts practitioners.

What would you say are the biggest challenges the NAC faces in carrying out its mandate?
I think one of the biggest challenges the arts “ecology” constantly faces is that of sustainability. We constantly seek to find the most effective ways to support our artists and arts groups in their development, through our grants and various other schemes. At the same time, a thriving arts scene will also need private and corporate patrons, ticket-buying audiences, and a wide range of arts professionals working in education, marketing, social organisations, and arts venues.