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Pioneering Singapore Arts Incubator the Substation Loses Longtime Space

Pioneering Singapore Arts Incubator the Substation Loses Longtime Space


Pioneering Singapore Arts Incubator the Substation Loses Longtime Space

The Substation, Singapore’s first independent multidisciplinary arts space, has been told by the National Arts Council (NAC) that it must vacate in July the Armenian Street building it has occupied for the past thirty years, and that it cannot expect to return there in full capacity following a two-year renovation of the structure. Though plans to restore the building had been several years in the works following a 2017 assessment of the edifice, the Substation’s directors had been told that the organization would be allowed to move back in following completion of the work. According to ArtAsiaPacific, however, Substation officials learned via a February 8 Straits Times article that the space was to be converted with an eye to hosting multiple arts groups, and that though the Substation would be invited to apply for space there, it would likely not be given anywhere near the 17,500 square feet it once occupied.Founded in 1990 by the late playwright and art activist Kuo Pao Kun, the Substation, whose current location is just blocks from the National Museum of Singapore, has served as an incubator for young artists working across multiple disciplines. Encompassing facilities including a black-box space, a dance studio, classrooms, a gallery, and art studios, the Substation often hosted multiple events of different types simultaneously, fostering a cross-pollination among practices. With 50 percent of its funding coming from the NAC, the Substation relied heavily on renting venue space to local promoters and arts groups, which it will not be able to do if it is forced to downsize.“I was hoping we would be able to come back full-scale,” Substation codirector Raka Maitra told the Straits Times. “Otherwise I don’t know how we’ll keep our associate artist program going, how we will have festivals, how we will have an interdisciplinary space.” Maitra went on to note that “there’s a difference between arts housing and a home for the arts. If we get only part of the space and we have to rent the theater for our own shows, it won’t be an incubation space anymore. It will be very difficult to keep the vision of the Substation alive. We have artists from every discipline working here, and this is really a space for young artists.”The NAC has cited a rise in demand for arts space as being behind its decision to offer space in the renovated building to other arts groups. Meanwhile, Maitra and her cohort have been looking for temporary space to occupy during the construction. Under consideration are Goodman Arts Centre, in Marine Parade, and the Aliwal Arts Centre, in Kampong Glam, which is closer to Armenian Street. The news of the Substation’s situation was greeted unhappily by those it serves, some of whom cited the recent forced displacements of nonprofit theaters the Necessary Stage and the Centre 42, the latter of which lost its space to a similar NAC initiative. “With all these places losing their space one by one, lamented one Reddit user, “We will all be left with only malls.”


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