(’14)‘For the majority of people, the Arts are irrelevant to their daily lives.’ How true is this of your society?

Related: (’05)Do the arts, such as music and literature, really play a significant part in Singaporean society?

(’10)Would it matter if all the performing arts venues in your society, such as concert halls and theatres, were closed down?

(’11)’Only modern architecture and modern art have a place in today’s world.’ How true is this of your society?


(Introduction) Singapore is not traditionally known/famous for as a city of the Arts, unlike cities such as Paris, Venice, or Rome. But, this does not mean that the Arts are irrelevant in Singapore. As Singapore has already achieved considerable economic success in today’s world, it is increasingly focused on building up the cultural/art aspect of society. Although known to be a pragmatic and conservative society, I believe, the arts scene will eventually overcome that to become an irreplaceable part of our society.

(Refute 1) Some argue that the Arts are irrelevant in Singapore. This is because, they do not have any practical purpose. At best, they serve as forms of leisure; at worst, unneeded/unnecessary distractions. A trip to the national museum (of Singapore) or the Esplanade may be a refreshing change of pace from the usual busyness of daily life, and one may build up his/her cultural capital and start appreciating the finer aspects of life, but such knowledge are largely inapplicable and unusable in his/her daily life. Information on the history of contemporary Southeast Asian art or the different movements of a Beethoven symphony are essentially trivial facts, for any normal Singaporean student or worker. Ultimately, most people are more concerned about the things that will significantly/tangibly affect their life/work/studies in society, leading to negligence of the arts in their daily lives. This is compounded by the fact that many Singaporeans likely do not even have adequate time to make room for the arts; According to an online global survey by international business company Regus, 19% of (one in five) Singaporean workers work eleven or more hours a day. Hence, the Arts are irrelevant in people’s lives.

(Supporting 1) However, I beg to differ. Precisely because Singaporeans live in a fast-paced, stressful society, all the more they need the arts to alleviate some of the pressure that daily life puts on them. They need regular mental shifts to bring them away from work/school, as important moderations in their lives, and the Arts are ideal for that. This is because, the Arts, especially the aesthetically pleasing ones, appeals to people’s senses and allows us to feel relaxed/contentment instead of stress. In Singapore, these kinds of art can come in unconventional forms, such as architecture and nature. Gardens by the Bay, with its sprawling gardens and creative landscaping that feature everything from Chinese to Indian gardens with statues of various sizes, is a prime example. Evidently, more Singaporeans have realized the value of the Arts in this aspect, as there is now greater appreciation for, and participation in the Arts. According to the National Population Survey on the Arts, released by the National Arts Council (NAC), more than two-thirds of Singaporeans believed that the arts helped them express their thoughts, feelings and ideas, enabled them to be more creative and improved the quality of life for everyone. The Singapore Cultural Statistics 2014 report indicated that visitorship to National Museums and Heritage Institutions reached a new high at 3.2 million in 2013. These findings show that the Arts are not exactly irrelevant in people’s daily lives, hence, I do not agree with the statement.

(Supporting 2) Furthermore, the Arts are used professionally in the area of healthcare for therapy and treatment of mental illnesses, exemplifying its function in maintaining mental health.  Traditional treatment methods have seen limited results in treating certain diseases/conditions such as mental illness and physical disabilities, causing the arts to be increasingly recognized as an effective means of treatment and therapy. This is in lieu of increasing scientific evidence which demonstrate that the arts can positively affect medical outcomes and improve the quality of care for patients in the healthcare services. For instance, Singapore General Hospital uses art therapy to help some of its patients understand their mental and emotional wellbeing; this has benefited patients with eating disorders to have a clearer picture of their illness and discharge their emotions in a healthy manner. Very Special Arts Singapore (VSA) provides individuals with disabilities with the chance to access the arts for the purposes of rehabilitation and social integration. Aside from having therapeutic effects on disabled individuals’ physical and emotional self, it aids in practical aspects of their lives such as hand-eye coordination and bodily posture. As shown, Singapore has recognized the fact that the Arts is greatly beneficial in the area of healthcare as it not only promotes faster healing but also reduces stress and improves a patient’s overall sense of comfort and well-being, causing the Arts to become more relevant in these people’s lives.

(Refute 2) Some argue the arts are irrelevant in Singapore. This is because, the arts scene itself is restricted. Due to the conservativeness of the Singapore society and the tight view that the government pertains towards freedom of expression, there is likely to be negligible tolerance held by the government towards unconventional ideas and art creations by the people. This is evident from the relatively high level of censorship of the arts in Singapore and tight regulations/licensing requirements the Media Development Authority (MDA) has for the arts (and arts practitioners). For instance, MDA had banned the film, “To Singapore, With Love” in 2014, a documentary on Singapore’s political exiles, which criticizes Singapore’s way of turning past Communists into exiles. According to the filmmaker, it was intended to relate the personal stories and emotions of people who have been away from Singapore for an extended length of time, and she had attempted to provide balance to their views by using inter-titles and news clippings in the film. However, the Films Appeal Committee claimed that the film was a “one-sided account with minimal attempts to provide a balanced mix of views” beyond those provided by the interviewees, and may pose a threat to national security. Singapore’s arts community expressed disappointment towards the ban, saying that the government is trying to limit discussion around our very own history, and that censorship does nothing to promote a vibrant society. As shown, censorship prevents the arts scene in Singapore from reaching its full potential and its full outreach to the people; if even topics relevant to Singapore, such as its own history, are banned, Singaporeans will likely become only more uninterested in/out-of-touch with the Arts, causing the Arts to be irrelevant in people’s daily lives.

(Supporting 3) However, I beg to differ. Although censorship does exist for the government to control/ban controversial art, by and large, the government has become more active in promoting the Arts to the masses. They have become increasingly focused on developing the arts and culture ecosystem in Singapore, with the aim of making Singapore the regional arts hub in Asia. Besides the construction of high/fine/contemporary art museums and areas such as the Gillman Barracks, this is apparent through the establishment of various art venues in the heartlands/communities, allowing the Arts to have a greater outreach, and play a bigger role in people’s daily lives. For instance, Ministry of Culture, Community, Youth (MCCY) helps the arts flourish in neighborhoods all across the island through community-friendly spaces, like libraries and community centers, which are termed as “community nodes for arts and culture”. These are places where people can gather to enjoy performances, workshops and more. By 2025, the aim is to have 25 community nodes distributed across the island. Such will take the arts within easy reach of Singaporean households. The PAssionArts Movement is also growing community outreach efforts to bring the arts closer to more Singaporeans. In 2013, more than 14,000 arts and culture events and courses were organized throughout Community Arts & Culture Clubs. A total of 100,000 residents also participated in arts and cultural activities, organized through various Festival Villages as part of PAssionArts 2013. This is an increase from the 85,000 residents who took part in PAssionArts events in 2012. Hence, as shown, through the various initiatives introduced by the government, there is now a greater sense of the Arts through the masses, causing them to be more relevant in people’s daily lives.



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