An opinion piece on The Straits Times today commented on how the seeming increase in arts appreciation as indicated by the 2011 National Population Survey on the Arts (and the positive outlook reported by CNA) painted an inaccurate picture given how the measure in attendance used by the survey may have been unrealistically low (just one arts or cultural event a year) and how the spectrum of activities that fell under categories like ‘theatre’ was too wide. She writes:
But is the “at least one arts and culture activity a year” standard a meaningful gauge of arts consumption? The bar seems to have been set too low. A Chingay attendee does not an artsgoer make.
The Arts and Culture Strategic Review committee has been tasked with shaping Singapore’s arts and culture policy for the next 15 years. One of its most important goals is to get 80 per cent of Singapore’s population to attend at least one arts and cultural event a year by 2025.
Going by the survey’s loose definition of the “arts”, and the fact that the targeted frequency is just once a year, achieving this goal will not be much of a challenge.
Surely the authorities should use a more robust measurement of the efficacy of the Government’s efforts to encourage arts attendance and engagement? Without making any value judgements on the differences between high or low art, most people recognise that in the spectrum of arts and entertainment, a Hi-5 concert leans towards the latter.
The arts council says it has grouped populist entertainment forms in the same category as more conventionally labelled artistic genres, such as plays and dance, to reflect the growing popularity of mass entertainment offerings such as variety shows. The logic governing such categorisation is hard to follow. Just because an ice-skating show is popular does not mean that it belongs to the same category as classical music.
The broad definition distorts the picture of arts consumption.
Question is, was the survey approach valid in adopting such a broad definition of the arts to best capture the diverse consumption patterns of cosmopolitan Singapore? Or is the ST writer correct in pointing how the survey draw up an unreliably positive picture of arts appreciation in Singapore? Should we be concerned about the appreciation and consumption of more conventional and traditional forms of art? Or should we just be satisfied with the fact we are consuming some form of art anyway?