We live in a society that constantly tells us what we can do, or can’t do. Especially in Singapore, we are infamously known as The Fine City. Signs are aplenty in our island-state reminding us of the consequences that await if we chose not to abide by the rules. Everything is bounded by the law and there is barely any freedom or space to breathe.

For too long, big brother agenda ‘to protect the interests of the people’ has regulated the arts scene. But do we really need to be told what sort of Arts we are allowed like or can be exposed to? ArtsEngage, a Singapore Arts community, has released a Manifesto for the Arts to challenge this and petition for the Arts to be unadulterated. Perhaps it’s high time that the reins be handed back over to the people.

Art is an essential element of a culture or country and should not have limits placed upon it. Look at the Greek and Roman ancient civilization, the arts was what helped define their legacy. Art should belong to the people and wherever their imagination brings them.

I vaguely remember when I was in lower secondary (almost 10 years ago), there was an attempt in my school to provide us with an exposure to different forms of art. We learned of the art greats like Da Vinci and we dabbled in graffiti as well. It retrospect, it was a great effort by my art teacher, Ms Audrey Tan, to expose us to such diversity.

However, as Singapore grows economically, it seems that the value of art decreases. Our education system is structured in a way that places little emphasis on the arts, and this, to me, is a tragedy. Even when the arts are promoted in schools, it usually involves intertwining academic material into it, and emphasizing it more. Parents, too, question the viability of propagating the arts in school and see it as a waste of time. It is a shame that the children of our nation are not exposed to the arts scene.

Art should be one aspect of our closely guarded society that should be given ample breathing space for the scene to fully and properly blossom. Unlike a child, the last thing the arts need is a parent to tell it what to do, to set boundaries or to dictate which direction it should head in.

Art should be left as an individualized and personal experience and should be left to the creativity and interests of one to explore the scene. Defining art would be like a child being shown all the different candies in the world, but can only eat one because he is told that is the best.

To live in one of the most stressful cities in the world, the arts can be a form of escape and expression for the people. To quote the Manifesto, “Art epitomizes the irrepressible human need for the immaterial things that matter; love, friendship, home, family, ideals and the pursuit of knowledge and goodness.”

To sign the Manifesto, click HERE

Click HERE to find our more about the people behind the Manifesto for the Arts