restricted access Chapter 12: Spaces, Places and Landscapes for the Arts
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218 12 Spaces, Places and Landscapes for the Arts T.C. Chang Introduction Singapore’s development as a “global arts city” may be traced back to 1989 when a high level government committee was established to jumpstart the country’s cultural development. The main role of the Advisory Council on Culture and the Arts (ACCA) was to envision Singapore as a culturally-vibrant society by providing recommendations on arts infrastructure, education, publicity and administrative organisation (ACCA 1989). Since the groundwork was laid in the late 1980s, arts and cultural spaces have proliferated in Singapore. This chapter explores the diverse types of arts spaces or landscapes focusing attention on the processes of development as well as the challenges and contestations these landscapes have sometimes encountered. A scalar approach will be used to identify and differentiate the arts landscapes. By distinguishing landscapes according to their “global”, “regional” or “local” provenance, two important issues are highlighted. The first is that arts spaces in Singapore are created through different approaches for different purposes and sometimes even for different people. For example, while “global” arts spaces are often seen as a showcase of Singapore’s cosmopolitan lifestyle and a lure to foreign talent and tourists, highly “localised” cultural landscapes have been created to bring the arts to the community. While global spaces 12 C-Landscapes.indd 218 7/30/13 10:42:26 AM Spaces, Places and Landscapes for the Arts 219 are often in downtown locations, local landscapes usually occupy “heartlands” or suburban neighbourhoods. The second issue to note is that a scalar approach is an explicit geographical way of categorising and documenting information. Of course, there exists other means of classifying data as well. An economist, for example, might approach the study of arts spaces by looking at the public and private-sector financing of infrastructure while a historian might explore the topic by looking at changes over distinct time phases. A scalar approach is adopted here to illustrate a geographical perspective while also staying true to Singapore’s challenge of remaining a “home” even as it strives towards being a “global city”. We should note at the outset that the scalar approach is interconnected and the local, regional and global scales are not mutually exclusive of each other. Towards this end, we should think through how different scalar agendas are related to one another rather than operating on their own. For example, as we look at regional arts landscapes and local spaces, we will also have to consider how these types of spaces help advance Singapore towards its goal of being a Global City for the Arts. The chapter begins by exploring Singapore’s vision as a global city for the arts before examining regional/Asian connections and local arts spaces/ landscapes. In the conclusion, three potential areas for further geographical research are suggested for those interested in pursuing the topic of arts landscapes in Singapore. Global City for the Arts: Envisioning a World Class Cultural Hub Since 1989 and continuing into the 2000s, government policies have envisioned Singapore as a global city for the arts. The 1989 ACCA report set the foundation by emphasising world-class standards in two areas: infrastructure (in the form of performing venues and museums) and institutions (in terms of arts administration and governance). The ACCA was explicit in its manifold goals for Singapore. The arts has to serve social, political and economic agendas by giving Singapore a unique national character through music, theatre and movies; it has to broaden minds and deepen people’s sensitivities to the non-material aspects of life; it has to improve local quality of life; and it has to contribute to the nation’s tourism and entertainment economies (ACCA 1989: 12). While the “hardware” in terms of amenities and buildings was gradually built up in the 1990s following 12 C-Landscapes.indd 219 7/30/13 10:42:26 AM T.C. Chang 220 the ACCA recommendations, the “software” in terms of arts education and manpower training, some argue, has lagged behind (Chong 2012; Wee 2012). This formed the agenda for the arts and cultural blueprints of the new millennium. Collectively known as the Renaissance City plans (MITA 2000), policies throughout the 2000s underscored the term “global city for the arts” as a vision for Singapore (Table 1). The Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts (MICA) spelt out the vision in the following way: “We want to position Singapore as a key city in the Asian renaissance of the twentyfirst...


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