2013 National Population Survey on the Arts Continues to Show Trend of Growing Recognition of the Value of the Arts


Changing habits of arts consumption as arts attendance figures normalise

3 December 2014, Singapore – The National Arts Council (NAC) published the eighth edition of the National Population Survey on the Arts today. The 2013 findings show a growing recognition of the value of engaging in arts and culture among Singaporeans, rising 5% points on average compared to 2011.


2              More than two-thirds of Singaporeans surveyed, believed that arts and culture helped them express their thoughts, feelings and ideas, enabled them to be more creative, and improved the quality of life for everyone. In addition, the survey revealed that 9 in 10 respondents consumed the arts through digital or electronic media. Results have also shown that arts attendance figures have normalised from the 2011 peak.


3              Says Ms Kathy Lai, Chief Executive Officer, NAC, “The arts are for everyone. It is encouraging to note that more Singaporeans see the value and benefits that the arts can bring to their lives. Artists and arts companies can draw on the insights offered by the survey to develop programmes that can reach a wider audience and deepen their engagement. ”


4              She adds, “With the diverse interests of Singaporeans, it is important to recognise the need to engage audiences at different levels so that they continue to see the relevance of the arts in their lives. It is apparent from the findings that our audiences are facing many challenges in their fast-paced lives and making it easier for them to access the arts would go a long way. The Council will continue to support the arts community and the cultural institutions in enabling all Singaporeans to experience, appreciate and enjoy the arts.”


5              The 2013 National Population Survey on the Arts interviewed a total of 2,015 Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs) between December 2013 and March 2014. This survey allows  NAC to take a comprehensive snapshot of the current level of interest, attitudes and perceptions towards arts and culture activities, as well as audience habits and their influencing factors. This survey is commissioned by the Council and is part of its ongoing efforts in research to provide arts practitioners, partners and industry stakeholders with useful insights and resources to help plan and implement their programmes and activities.




Some of the key findings from the 2013 population survey include:


        i)            Growing recognition of the value of arts and culture


6              Appreciation for the role of the arts continued to strengthen in 2013, with significant improvements observed across a number of personal as well as national benefits. On a personal level, more than two-thirds of respondents (71%) believed that the arts helped them express their thoughts, feelings and ideas while two-thirds (67%) agreed that the arts enabled them to be more creative as well as improved their overall quality of life.  


7              On a broader level, more Singaporeans understood that the arts could build a more cohesive society and stronger national identity. More than three-quarters (76%) said that it gave them a better understanding of people of different backgrounds and cultures, while more than half (58%) felt that the arts gave them a sense of identity as well as a sense of belonging to Singapore (56%).


8              Says Mr Alvin Tan, 2014 Cultural Medallion recipient and Founder and Artistic Director of The Necessary Stage, “The arts and culture have the power to bring communities together and to shape mindsets. As a theatre practitioner for many years, I have seen how my works have influenced society and how society has influenced mine. It is in this sociocultural exchange that I see a new kind of people and society emerging; and I believe that Singaporeans, deep inside, do see how the exposure to the arts and culture has the potency to develop their approach and perspectives to life.”


      ii)            Evolving habits of arts consumption


9              Being one of the most digitally connected cities in the world, it is no surprise that consumption habits of Singaporeans for the arts have also shifted online, through digital media formats and platforms such as mobile and electronic devices.  91% of Singaporeans had turned to these channels to engage in the arts in the last 12 months. The convenient and low-cost nature of these platforms has made it easy and time-effective for Singaporeans to access the arts.


    iii)            Arts and culture attendance and participation levels revert to earlier trend


10           Attendance of arts activities have reverted to trend after the peak in attendance in 2011 (attributed in part to the novelty of the Integrated Resorts which brought in blockbuster musicals). Live attendance at arts events dipped from 48% in 2011 to 40% in 2013. Participation in the arts also saw a decline from 19% in 2011 to 13% in 2013. Having an arts hobby and buying art was cited as the most common means of participation.


11           The slower economic growth in 2012 and 2013 (compared to the buoyant conditions of 2010) may have been another key reason why Singaporeans have reduced their spending on arts and culture activities. Fewer ticketed arts events in 2013 (compared to 2011) also narrowed choices for arts consumers. Other reasons cited include increasing family commitments (28%), personal preferences for other activities (28%) and perceived irrelevance of the arts to their lives (26%).


    iv)            Heritage-related initiatives enjoyed the highest attendance rates


12           Across the various art and culture forms, heritage-related events and activities enjoyed the highest attendance rate (19%), as well as the strongest increase from 2011. Among the different Heritage activities, visiting historic districts was the most popular, particularly among families and seniors. Attendance for Theatre performances came in a close second, with the Literary Arts seeing a 6% point hike in attendances.


      v)            More are accessing the arts at their doorstep


13           Dedicated arts venues remained the most common choice for arts engagement. In 2013, one in three arts attendees attended events or activities in the city centre, while one in four attended them within the neighbourhood they live in. This is evidence that the arts are becoming more widely available and accessible to Singaporeans living in both the centre and outside the city; and that Singaporeans can opt to engage in the arts near their city-centre workplaces or closer to home. Some examples of arts programmes that have been launched in the neighbourhoods over the past few years include the People’s Association’s PAssionArts and NAC’s Arts in Your Neighbourhood initiative.


    vi)            Early engagement for life-long participation


14           Among respondents who had engaged in the arts during their childhood, 49% were current arts attendees and 16% were actively participating in the arts. In contrast, among those who had not been exposed to arts and culture activities in their growing years, arts attendance and participation levels were 16% and 5% respectively. This difference suggests that exposure and involvement in the arts at a young age lay the foundation for life-long interest and engagement in the arts.


15           Says Mr Ian Loy of the Esplanade’s PLAYTIME!, an interactive theatre series for children’s aged two to four, “Children are the most impressionable when they are young and being exposed to the arts at such a tender age opens their mind to whole new world of possibilities.  During my performances, I noticed that children tend to become more confident and expressive when interacting with the characters on stage – it’s like there are no social barriers for them in the arts. When they grow up and see how the arts have benefited their lives when they were young, the likelihood of them engaging in it again is greater.”


16           Please refer to the for key highlights observed in the six population segment profiles surveyed.


Please refer to https://nac.gov.sg/resources/research for the full report and arts infographics.