night, I finally became a fan of the Arts Fest.
we will one day come to expect the arts as part
of the local landscape and our cultural birthright.
on - you'd think I would already be one of its evangelists
and vocal champions.
I be passionately expounding the lyric grace of The Rite
Of Spring, the pulsating masculinity of Ultima Vez, the
genius of Philip Glass - never mind that most Singaporeans
have never heard of the minimalist composer, much less pronounce
is, I've never been avidly interested in Singapore's biggest
annual arts bash.
I haven't got plans to attend any of the main acts this
not alone: Many of my friends - 20-something, well-travelled
professionals most likely to be the Arts Fest's core target
audience - share the same lack of enthusiasm.
being busy busy people, we simply have no time to catch
up with a month's worth of shows.
complain that tickets are a bit pricey.
the same bunch of people have no hesitation forking out
plenty of time and money on marathon events like the recent
could be all the hype.
like netizen Artanic, thinks there's a problem with the
Arts Fest programming: ''Everyone tries so hard to impress,''
he posted on an online forum.
with its $6.1-million budget and multiple TV, print and
Web ads, it's hard not to see the Arts Fest as a hardsell
publicity blitz for our Renaissance City ambitions.
folded their newspapers to listen and children
became quiet as Philharmonia Wind played at Holland
Avenue, part of the Arts On The Move programme
at Arts Fest 2001.
Photos © ALVIN PANG : June 2001
be the first to admit that such cynicism is unfair.
just look at the Festival programme brochures - thin on
show details, heavy on glowing blurbs from The New York
Times and gushy phrases like ''legendary'' and ''stunning''.
to that the dressy, high-society openings, and the whole
glitzy affair seemed less about art than about touting ''world-class''
names and flashy avant-garde acts, enticing the cosmo crowd
to see and be seen.
all well and good to fill our senses, but the glut of high-falutin',
esoteric stuff can seem a bit overwhelming to the casual
concert goer or opera buff, I think.
an appreciation of the arts isn't acquired overnight, especially
with the cutting-edge fare the Arts Fest tends to favour.
from a narrow band of elites and hardcore artsy types, who's
got the patience to take it all in?
I said, all that changed last night after I attended an
Arts On The Move concert.
was a festival fringe event, one of the National Arts Council's
(NAC) free outreach attempts.
little-known but passionate local group Philharmonia Wind
set up shop in front of Block 2, Holland Avenue and started
playing its best brass favourites to heartlander housewives,
screaming kids and curious families sticking their heads
out of their HDB flats.
the crowd kept growing as passers-by stopped to listen.
elderly auntie brought her own stool down to sit and watch.
men in singlets and sandals folded their evening tabloids
and paid full attention.
the magical hour was over, I was applauding not just the
musicians, but the NAC for making it impossible to ignore
the fact that there's something happening in the arts, right
here and now.
it may be, but the Arts Fest approach of saturating the
island with artforms of all colours, persuasions and price
tags, even for just a month, indicates a relentless determination
to make the arts matter.
I still think some of the shows are a bit wonky. But there's
no need to like every show.
sheer diversity of acts - some of the best ones are free
and playing on an HDB grass patch near you - is a reflection
of the choice we can now afford in the arts.
there's a deeper value to the Arts Fest, it's in this exuberant
cornucopia of activity.
all, it gives Singaporeans a chance to see esoteric acts
they wouldn't otherwise think of trying.
if folks who'd never buy an opera ticket or understand Noh
theatre can still experience a free act or two at an MRT
station, a mall, or on an HDB playground, maybe we will
one day come to expect the arts as part of the local landscape
and our cultural birthright.
that would really spark off a renaissance.