Thursday, 11 December 2014

Visitors to public museums hit new high in 2013

By Corrie Tan, The Straits Times, 10 Dec 2014

VISITOR numbers at public museums hit a record high last year, even as attendance at ticketed performing arts activities fell.

These were key findings of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's annual Cultural Statistics report, released yesterday, which provides the latest figures on arts and heritage events.

About 3.2 million people flocked to public museums last year, compared with 2.8 million in the year before. This jump follows the Government's move to allow free entry to these museums for Singaporeans and permanent residents in May last year.

Former Arts Nominated MP Audrey Wong feels an interest in heritage has been steadily brewing over the past few years, with young people becoming more curious about the past. "We're maturing as a nation," she said.

However, the number of ticketed performing arts activities dipped from 3,497 in 2012 to 3,006 last year. Ticketed attendance at performing arts events saw a corresponding drop from about 2.1 million to 1.9 million. These findings mirror the National Population Survey on the Arts released last week by the National Arts Council on attendance levels at such activities. The survey studies how Singaporeans consume and engage with the arts, while the Cultural Statistics report is based on data collection.

The ministry has refined its data-collection approach; instead of getting figures from arts venues and government agencies, which use different collection methods, it collected figures from ticketing agencies and the People's Association last year for a more rigorous approach.

The ministry said a key factor for a decline in attendance was the diminishing novelty of the integrated resorts, which opened in 2011 with "a slew of musicals and artistic offerings that boosted the number of performing arts activities". The Singapore Arts Festival (now the Singapore International Festival of Arts) was also on hiatus last year.

Still, total non-ticketed attendance rose from about 17.9 million in 2012 to about 18.2 million last year. This includes upticks in attendance at heritage events (from about 5.1 million to 5.7 million) and library events (from about 10.2 million to 10.4 million).

Government funding for arts and culture also leapt from $541.4 million in 2012 to $677.3 million last year. This can be attributed to the development of the National Gallery Singapore and the refurbishing of the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall.

More students are enrolling in full-time tertiary arts courses - a jump of about 20 per cent from 4,492 in 2012 to 5,409 last year. The School of the Arts saw a similar increase in enrolment, from 934 to 1,070 in the same period.

Ms Wong, who teaches arts management at Lasalle College of the Arts, said that while this is an encouraging sign, "there is some concern from the industry now about supply and demand. It's great that we can accommodate all of these students in our schools, but will they find jobs when they graduate? And secondly, will they remain in these roles for the long term? That is still an open question".

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