On 8 March 2021, Minister Edwin Tong announced a new $20m enhancement to the Arts and Culture Resilience Package (ACRP) to enable continued support for arts groups and artists, as live performances and other cultural activities gradually resume, bringing the total Covid-19 support for arts and culture sector to $75m. Two new grants were introduced as part of the enhanced ACRP: Self-Employed Person Grant (SEPG) for arts and culture freelancers and the Organisation Transformation Grant (OTG).
In 2021, relevant arts and culture stakeholders were engaged for their views to scope both the SEPG and the OTG to ensure that the grants meet the needs of the sector. A total of 10 engagement sessions were conducted for the SEPG (four sessions, including dedicated Ask NAC! sessions) and OTG (six sessions), involving more than 100 stakeholders in the arts sector including arts companies and cultural institutions.
Read the engagement summaries below to find out more about the discussions:
The Arts Resource Hub (ARH) organised two engagement sessions (8 April and 1 June 2021) for the Self-Employed Person Grant (SEPG) to co-create and scope key parts of the grant. It involved a total of 50 participants including SEPs, SEP advocate groups, and representatives from arts organisations.
Key topics covered include:
- Objectives of the SEPG: Participants acknowledged that the main objective of the SEPG was to create work opportunities for SEPs in the sector through projects. They highlighted that the criteria and scope of the SEPG would need to take a more inclusive approach to ensure that SEPs across different fields could benefit from it, including those in technical production. Some also pointed out that while organisations were eligible to apply for the SEPG, their projects should primarily aim to benefit SEPs and funds should primarily be channelled to SEPs.
- Prioritising arts SEPs: To ensure funds are prioritised for arts SEPs, SEPs’ status will need to be verified based on their track records and activity in the sector. However, to ensure that emerging or younger SEPs also have access to the grant, participants suggested that they could show proof of their academic or career references through their involvement in public arts programmes. On ensuring that SEPs benefit from the grant, participants proposed to ringfence a certain amount of awarded funds for SEPs vis-à-vis technical/production costs, or to peg a minimum number of SEPs that should be involved against overall manpower headcount.
- Inclusive approach to range of SEPG projects: To benefit as many SEPs as possible, participants felt that the range of supportable projects could be kept wider, and that a more open approach to the types of collaborations would encourage SEPs to explore new partnerships and ways of work.
- SEPG as a way to support SEPs’ livelihoods in the longer term: Participants felt that aside from once-off productions and presentations, the SEPG could also support projects that help contribute to the sustainability of SEPs’ careers, including those that could be more process-driven, or explore creating new platforms or collaborative opportunities for SEPs to network, generate income and market/present their artistic works.
- Capability Development: Participants observed that as arts SEPs have differing needs based on their practice, there could be some leeway for them articulate their own capability development areas. Capability development opportunities proposed include matching or attaching SEPs to other government agencies like IMDA to work alongside the creative and media industry, or to develop digital or tech skills through institutions or schools that have such ready resources.
- Mentorships from the arts community: As part of capability development, participants also suggested that mentors or veteran SEPs could help guide grant applicants, especially those unfamiliar with the processes of grant applications, or work in the areas of production and digitalisation processes and equipment.
- Collaborations and ideation sessions, for newer SEPs: Participants expressed interest in looking for collaborators from disciplines beyond the arts and new platforms for innovation, including mooting the idea of hackathons, networking sessions and “speed dating” to find collaborators and develop new ideas, or using online platforms to interact and share ideas. Ideation sessions could be kept open and inclusive for all sectors, to facilitate “matchmaking” required across different needs for varying projects. Newer SEPs to the scene also suggested assembling a core team to help facilitate discussions on ideas and allow organic mentorships, so that resources and ideas can be shared and refined before projects are submitted for application.
- Allowance to work with non-Singaporean SEPs: A few participants also suggested the grant allow a small percentage of non-Singaporean SEPs to be involved, as some have been contributing to the local industry without being eligible for other support. This could also open up opportunities for Singaporean SEPs to collaborate with international practitioners.
- Taking into account the gradual opening of the performing arts sector: Some participants felt that the proposed criteria to prioritise projects of a digital nature should be reassessed, given the gradual reopening of the sector.
Additional dedicated Ask NAC! Engagement Sessions (23 June and 22 July 2021)
Key topics addressed are as follows:
- Application process: Participants sought to understand more about the application terms e.g. submission documents required and eligibility criteria, including the core project team requirements and composition, role of lead applicants as well as the need to enter contractual arrangements with members of the core project team.
- Supportable Costs: Participants raised queries on venue rental and what would count as reasonable rates when deciding artist fees in the project budget.
- Grant Funding: In response to the SEPG funding projects that have to be completed by 31 March 2022, participants asked if there would a possibility of extension beyond that date. Some also asked about how to continue funding projects beyond this date and clarified about tapping on other grants/funding to fund the extra costs not funded by the SEPG.
- Supportable projects: Participants sought clarifications on whether digital mediums and presentations would be considered, what would count as fulfilling the public performance/exhibition requirement, the types of projects would be eligible, and whether project funding could include fees to incentivise SEPs to participate.
- Interest in finding suitable collaboration partners: A number of SEPs also shared their interest in finding fellow collaborators to apply for the SEPG together.
Evolving COVID-19 Situation and Digitalisation – Challenges and Opportunities
Participants shared that there were both challenges and opportunities amidst the COVID-19 situation. Aside from the costs incurred to digitalise programmes and the need to adapt to evolving situations, arts organisations highlighted challenges such as competition with other online content, as well as the need for better protection of intellectual property rights and their digital works. On the other hand, participants also pointed out opportunities that arose from the pandemic – arts organisations were able to tap on the previous Digital Presentation Grant (DPG) to quickly digitalise, and others were able to extend collaborations and their programmes to a regional and international audience. Furthermore, participants reflected that the past year has highlighted the importance of re-thinking their modes of work, and some shared on how they have begun their own organisation’s transformation in different ways.
Participants’ Feedback on Grant Design
Given that the OTG is a time-limited scheme with projects ending in March 2022, participants highlighted the need for flexibility to determine outcomes at the end of the funding period. It was also suggested that projects supported by the OTG could be an opportunity for companies to experiment and pilot ideas to jumpstart transformation efforts. Participants also shared feedback that manpower needs should be supported under the OTG, particularly for manpower costs contributing to the transformation efforts undertaken as part of their OTG projects. Other areas of grant design, such as co-funding requirements and grant caps, were also discussed during the sessions.
Resources Required to Support Transformation
Arts organisations shared on the need for existing staff and arts workers across the industry to be upskilled in the different aspects of transformation, and appreciated having better support (e.g., through consultants/ technical experts/ partners) come in to work with the arts industry. In discussing the different types of transformation projects that were possible for OTG, participants shared a common desire to collaborate with partners from both within and beyond the arts sector. Participants also hoped for more opportunities to network with each other, and with companies from other sectors to leverage expertise and knowledge to take their own transformation efforts forward. There were several suggestions on how arts organisations could work together to develop solutions that would benefit the wider arts sector.