“Come April 2014, we will all transit to a new chapter. And for some, a new book!”
26th March 2014 marks the 10th anniversary celebration of The Arts House, the crown jewel of the company, THE OLD PARLIAMENT HOUSE LIMITED. The Old Parliament House Limited (TOPH) has steered The Arts House’s 10 momentous years of crossing the frontiers of Singapore’s art landscape by:
- Anchoring creative communities within sustainable and affordable spaces. Through The Business Times Budding Artists Fund, The Arts House provided over 8000 underprivileged children/youth with free arts training and performance opportunities in Singapore and overseas since 2005 -- originating from a conviction that no child should be denied the opportunity to pursue arts training due to a lack of financial resources.
The Arts House was the first home to these children.
- Building authentic and dynamic places by connecting creative and cultural resources. From managing just one arts centre in 2004, today TOPH manages six other centres applying effectively its unique brand of space and place management capability learnt over the years. It remains the only arts organization in Singapore to register a SGD$1 million surplus on its first year of operations. This outcome demonstrated the company’s initial commitment to build a sustainable and responsible social enterprise so that it can faithfully serve the community through the arts.
The Arts House seeded many Singapore young artists over the past 10 years.
- Creating tools, expanding thinking and inspiring action. For the past 10 years, TOPH had built up a formidable reputation for itself. It is the “darling” of the artistic community and held in high esteem by the corporate community, and by arts organizations at home and abroad. It sent over 800 artists and arts practitioners to various cities including Hong Kong, Tokyo, Moscow, Capetown, Prague and Bratislava as part of its unique brand of cultural diplomacy through its Spotlight Singapore programme.
The Arts House showed the world the Singapore’s brand of Art!
These remarkable achievements can only be attributed to its people. As aptly mentioned by Dr. Kevin Tan, writer for The Arts House commemorative book, The Creative Art of Survival, (get a copy if you have not) “it was about people – those who ran the House and those who used it; those who worked for the House, and those who worked with it. In the first six years of its existence, the House had become much more than an arts venue extraordinaire; it had become a live organism that breathed life into the local arts scene. The last four, as it moved from The Arts House to A Home to Words, were no less fulfilling.”
At this high point, I hereby announce that I will be stepping down as CEO of the Old Parliament House Limited with effect from 31st March 2014, a position that I have held for the past 10 years.
I was recently reminded by Ms Jennie Chua, Chairperson of the Old Parliament House Limited that “10 years is long enough to have seen big changes but recent enough to be relevant for today”.
What would I do next?
10 years ago, I mooted the idea of a fund to Mr Alvin Tay, Editor of The Business Times a fellow board member of The Arts House, to provide free arts training to the less privileged. The fund was adopted and later renamed The Business Times Budding Artists Fund in 2005. Together (including Mrs Clara Lim-Tan and Mr Iskandar Ismail), we did not imagine that this fund would go on to play such a significant role in the lives of many underprivileged children here in Singapore. Through The Business Times Budding Artists Fund and the subsequent setting up of the Little Arts Academy in November 2008, I have personally witnessed how the arts have brought families together and gave special meaning to children who were disregarded in their own homes. The work spurred by a simple belief 10 years ago, continues to be relevant today as we use the arts to inspire disadvantaged young talents and see how they can grow to give back to the arts in Singapore.
It is timely now to put my focus on this area and with the firm encouragement from my family and friends, I have decided to embrace my next calling in life as a “social entrepreneur” and see how far I can go to make a difference to the lives of these deserving young people by “harvesting the arts” to feed their hunger for growth to succeed in life.
To all who have supported me in these 10 years, I am deeply grateful, humbled and honoured. It will not be an easy journey for me and here I seek your support, and encouragement from the various agencies, the arts community, corporations and, more importantly, my friends.
Lastly, it would only be right to commend my colleagues (both past and present) for making the last 10 years truly brilliant. I have been greatly blessed to have the support of an ingenious, inspired and gogetting management team.
This parting tribute to them is best summed up by Dr Kevin Tan in The Creative Art of Survival -
“Much of what The Arts House has done was a combination of careful, conscious planning and the willingness to adapt to changing circumstances and emerging opportunities. The team was able to capitalize on this for several reasons. First, it was united in purpose and vision. This did not result from some kind of ‘group think’ or the dominance of any single member of the team. Indeed, the directors of the company often disagreed with each other, but they were clear and resolute in what The Arts House’s mission was and did not waver even when confronted by heavy odds. Second, the team was made up of individuals who had spent time in the private sector as well as in the arts. They understood the thinking and psyche of both the artists and the business community and were thus able to negotiate between the two groups and come up with innovative solutions that represented a ‘win-win’ for all. Third, the team managed to foster a wonderful working relationship with both artists and corporates. Finally, the team was fiercely loyal – both to the House and to their ideals as a team. This fostered a kind of ‘we sink or swim together’ camaraderie and esprit de corps that is out of fashion in this day and age. It is remarkable that most of the key leaders of The Arts House management team remained with the organization for a whole decade, riding through two recessions and tremendous storms together. On a good day, this crack team could do almost anything."
It is an apposite statement to cap 10 years of dedication to an organization that I have been proud to serve.