Rules of engagement in the global arts city

The case of The Substation in Singapore

Authored by: Audrey Wong

The Routledge Companion to Arts Management

Print publication date:  September  2019
Online publication date:  September  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138492226
eBook ISBN: 9781351030861
Adobe ISBN:


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If, as noted in Pick’s classic text on arts administration (1980), the arts manager facilitates the “three-way transaction” between artists, audiences and the state, it stands to reason that the system of cultural governance in a city or country, the power hierarchies existing at any time and the basis for public funding of the arts, result in particular rules and patterns of engagement and conflict resolution between the arts sector, the state and other stakeholders. In Singapore, where top-down policy making is the norm and the government plays a highly interventionist role, a distinctive pattern of engagement between arts organisations and the state has evolved as the government directs cultural policies towards the achievement of “global arts city” status, with resulting impacts on the arts practitioners’ sense of cultural agency. The chapter discusses these patterns of engagement between arts practitioners and the state in Singapore through the example of The Substation, a non-profit multidisciplinary arts center, linking these to a distinctive “tone” of cultural governance in the city-state. These patterns of engagement involve tacit norms which are not always visible but might constitute an area of knowledge that is important for arts managers.

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