Friday, 7 November 2014

Arts play key role in S'pore's cultural shift: PM

Country would not be complete without appreciation of arts, he says
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 6 Nov 2014

THE arts and culture are an integral part of Singapore which the country must continue to nurture because "man does not live by bread alone", said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Arts institutions also play a key role in the cultural shift taking place in Singapore - with success being defined more broadly - even as they equip students with skills that are relevant to the workplace, he said.

"Creating jobs, upgrading workers, making Singapore a more attractive place to work - these are all important things in life. You have to put bread on the table," he said at an event marking the 30th anniversary of Lasalle College of the Arts.

"But 'man does not live by bread alone'. We do wish for the finer things in life, to appreciate beauty and love, and something uplifting for the spirit.

"Our nation would not be complete without an appreciation of arts and culture, and without Singaporeans who create artistic and cultural works," he told the audience of 500 that included students and teachers.

In this, Lasalle has contributed significantly, Mr Lee noted as he looked back on its history and achievements that included producing six Cultural Medallion recipients and 23 Young Artist Awards winners.

The school began in 1984 with the belief that Singapore, despite its focus on science and technology and the "practical things in life", needed art, he said.

He recalled his visit to its old campus in Goodman Road in Mountbatten in the 1980s, during which the school's founder and creative arts education pioneer Joseph McNally showed him around "with great pride".

The road that Lasalle now stands on - McNally Street - is named after Brother McNally who died in 2002.

Lasalle's 30-year milestone comes on the cusp of Singapore's 50th anniversary of independence next year, and amid a "cultural and mindset shift".

This shift is the emphasis on building many peaks of excellence in different areas to create multiple pathways to success.

More recently, it includes developing workers' skills that employers want.

The SkillsFuture Council fronting this push is chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. It met for the first time yesterday.

Arts institutions are part of this story, said Mr Lee, as they emphasise a deep mastery of skills and work with employers.

Lasalle, for instance, brings in leading professionals from major companies, such as Lucasfilm and Ubisoft, to teach its students.

"I encourage Lasalle, as well as other similar institutions, like Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, to continue to make connections between knowledge and real- world application, and be part of the vanguard for the mindset change we are embarking on," he said.

After his speech, Mr Lee attended a charity art auction and, among other things, received a caricature of himself.

It was drawn by Lasalle senior fellow Milenko Prvacki, a Cultural Medallion recipient in 2012.

Lasalle's chairman Peter Seah also spoke at the celebration, saying at Lasalle, they dream big.

"We dream of flying the Singapore flag high overseas, putting our name on the world map for the arts," he said, citing the students' achievements abroad.

Its design students, for instance, won Lasalle the accolade of top Asian institution at prestigious international competitions in London and New York, he said.

Alumni also perform in London's West End musical scene, and show their work at the Venice Biennale arts exhibition.

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