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todayonline - 2 month ago

With ‘profound sadness’, The Substation announces decision to close permanently

The Substation announced that it would close permanently after more than three decades The arts centre was due to vacate its Armenian Street premises for two years owing to renovation works Its board said it decided to close the centre as it would lose its autonomy, identity and heritage, should it return as one of the building’s tenants Fundraising efforts have also been dented by Covid-19 SINGAPORE — More than three decades after it cemented itself as a fixture in Singapore’s indie arts scene, the curtains will soon fall on independent arts centre The Substation, which announced its permanent closure on Tuesday (March 2). It will vacate its premises at 45 Armenian Street in July. In a statement, The Substation’s board said that it had come to the decision with “profound sadness” after lengthy deliberations and several discussions with the National Arts Council (NAC) and members of the arts community. The board said that while NAC had suggested that The Substation might return to 45 Armenian Street as a co-tenant when renovations at the site conclude in two years, the government agency made it clear that the centre would be one of several co-tenants and would not occupy the building in its full capacity. A decision was made to shut down the centre permanently because of its inability to return “fully to its place of origin”, with the board adding that it disagreed with NAC’s decision to convert the space into a building occupied by multiple tenants. TODAY has asked NAC for comment. Last month, its general manager Loh Aik Khoon told TODAY that The Substation had zeroed in on some venues, including Goodman Arts Centre in Mountbatten and Aliwal Arts Centre in Kampong Glam, as well as other places sourced by its team. But he declined to elaborate because discussions with the authorities were under way. NAC later said that the building would be a refurbished arts centre offering subsidised tenancy spaces, once renovation works are completed. Art practitioners interviewed by TODAY for its Big Read feature said that the centre allowed them to put on experimental showcases in a safe space, without the pressure of having to produce polished works. But more than an open space for artists to perform, it was the people and the community who coalesced around the space that became The Substation’s biggest draw. The Straits Times first reported in July last year that the building occupied by The Substation would be returned to NAC for two years of renovation work. The centre leases the building from NAC under its Arts Housing Scheme, which provides the arts community with affordable, heavily subsidised spaces. The Substation was founded in September 1990 by Cultural Medallion winner and playwright Kuo Pao Kun. It was thus named because the conserved building, built in the early 1900s, was formerly a power substation. The 1,630-sqm centre houses a black box, studios and an art gallery, and has been a springboard for some of Singapore’s acclaimed artists, including contemporary arts practitioner Amanda Heng and Mr Kok Heng Leun, artistic director of theatre company Drama Box and a former Nominated Member of Parliament. .embed-container { position: re padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: ab top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; } LOSS OF IDENTITY, HERITAGE IF UNABLE TO RETURN FULLY In its statement, the nine-member Substation board said that it would lose a “fundamental part of its identity and heritage” if the centre cannot return fully to 45 Armenian Street. “From its opening in 1990, the identity of the arts centre has been inextricably linked to the building, generating a unique and creative buzz that has been central to placemaking in Armenian Street for 30 years. “There is no other place like it,” said the board. Moreover, even if The Substation returned as a co-tenant, it cannot control building facilities, such as the theatre and gallery, which are integral to its operations. This means that the centre would lose autonomy over spaces and facilities crucial to its mission. It would also lose income from venue hiring. Half of the centre’s funding comes from an NAC grant. Rental income makes up the bulk of the other half. “These factors impact The Substation’s ability to operate as an independent arts centre and incubator. The Substation will not be in a position to fulfil its mission to support and provide a safe space for artists to do pioneering and experimental work.” Apart from its inability to occupy the building in its entirety, there are broader reasons contributing to The Substation’s closure, the board said. These include the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has made fundraising for the arts “especially difficult”. It noted that several donors have been cautious with their funds. Others have refocused their philanthropic outreach activities, giving lower priority to the arts. Despite NAC grants to help The Substation tide over the next two years, and a subsidised office space at Goodman Arts Centre, its budget will still tumble by half, the board said. This would entail a drastic reduction in staff strength and programming. Mr Chew Kheng Chuan, chairman of The Substation’s board, said: “With our closure, we hope that other arts organisations in Singapore will continue to carry the torch to give budding artists a safe space in which to experiment and develop their art. “We also hope that the NAC will take a chance on young unproven passionate artists and support the work of independent arts incubator spaces that have been vital to these artists, as it did for The Substation through the prior 30 years.”


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