Natalie Tan, Arts House Limited’s Senior Manager (Source: VNA)

Hanoi, (VNA) - “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that among other things nowadays, people don’t particularly want arts”, said once an acquaintance of mine. Natalie Tan, Arts House Limited’s Senior Manager working at Aliwal Arts Centre finds it true and hard enough, in her heart, to reach out to people with the so-called underdog.

Located in the Kampong Glam conservation area, the historic seat of Malay Royalty in Singapore, the Aliwal Arts Centre (AAC) first opened its doors in June 2013 and is now a centre for culture and arts activities. In line with the historic district, this place does hold stories for those who want to travel just back in time. In 1938, the Haw Par Brothers built the AAC’s predecessor, the Chong Cheng Girls’ School and Chong Pun Boys’ School, a school for arts.

History happened and AAC today in the heart of a preserved area of Singapore is refitted as a modern, artistic destination which strongly focuses on performing arts. As much as an opportunity, here comes a geological issue. Due to the location according to Tan, AAC does not seem to appear in people’s mind when they think of Kampong Glam district. That’s right there and then leading to the decision that she can not afford to just wait for people to pay a visit.

The whole attracting plan has started where it all began. Sharing ground within the conservation, it is natural that Aliwal Arts Centre reflects and is influenced from the rich cultural heritage. Whenever there’s an event at Kampong Glam, there are artistically parallel activities which AAC actively boasts to its visitors.

Along with traditional arts, AAC also provides visitors with contemporary arts and artists which and who could more easily touch young hearts and minds. Depending on the needs, AAC makes sure those demands met with both indoor, quiet, modern activities and outdoor, loud space as well, for artists, friends, families, adults and children to join together.

As one of the four arts centre for artists in Singapore, AAC has made it its mission to share the responsibility supporting artists. There are performance space, multi-purpose rooms, music studios, storage rooms... which are all inside the charm of history for artists to live up to their passion.
As a result, with annual events, festivals, weekly workshops and courses etc., AAC brings together the arts community, enthusiasts and the general public to explore and experience, give them chances to learn about the culture and arts of a diverse country when they’re having fun, which is the high return of experience that AAC aims for.

Last January, during the Singapore Art Week, 4,439 visitors were attracted to this place. The number is big enough given the scale of the centre. But in Tan’s opinion, it’s the visitors’ interesting experience, not the number of them, that is the most important thing that AAC always wishes to obtain.

For the soul of the city

Natalie Tan admits from time to time, she finds it very difficult to do her job “because funding is always a problem”. Part of the funding for the centre comes from the National Arts Council while the rest relies on facilities hire. “We don’t have enough fund to hire and additional person to help so it’s only me and the amount of things that I can do is very limited by my own time”, Tan said.

But at the end of the day, it’s still worth it to her, that her job is “something very rewarding” because she believes it’s important to show people what Kampong Glam and AAC could give them and it’s extremely important as well to let people enjoy their country’s arts and culture.

Little did Tan know, she’s not that on her own on this very journey. What she has been doing is exactly to which the future cities are heading. At the World Cities Summit 2016 (WCS) held in Singapore, His Excellency Tharman Shamugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister & Coordination Minister for Economic and Social Policies of Singapore suggested that, future cities need the vision and designs for “third places” where people interact and “fourth space” which is culture and where artists are brought into the society to create and develop values of the neighbourhood.

Earlier at the opening ceremony of WCS, Singapore’s President Dr. Tony Tan also made it crystal clear. “Culture provides an anchor for identity”, he said. Beyond the buildings and physical infrastructure, right in the city’s culture lies its soul.

At the moment, Natalie Tan is happy with what she’s doing. And the feedback from public or the tenants definitely helps her to continue moving forwards. “I think a lot of the time if you’re just doing stuff on your own without caring what people think, it’s not good”. With all the feedback that she can have, Tan believes her company can try to improve and know whether they’re on the right track or not. After all, it also is a truth universally acknowledged, that today arts don’t wait and nor do people like Tan for sure.-VNA