NAC: 'Disappointed' by The Substation's closure, had offered to review its financial sustainability

The Substation has been a major company with a long history of more than 30 years.

Lean Jinghui | March 03, 2021, 07:56 PM

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The National Arts Council (NAC) of Singapore announced on Mar. 2 that it was "disappointed" by The Substation's board's decision to close the arts centre permanently, given that The Substation had contributed significantly to the cultural scene for more than 30 years.

This comes in the wake of The Substation's announcement yesterday (Mar. 2), that it would be closing for good after leaving the Armenian Street building this July.

NAC offered The Substation co-tenant role

NAC said that The Substation had been aware of the decision to renovate 45 Armenian Street since 2017.

A spokesperson from the council added that it had consistently stressed that it would like The Substation to continue its role as an "art incubator".

The council last met with the board on Feb. 15, 2021. Two key matters had been discussed then — the use of 45 Armenian Street, and NAC's continued support for The Substation to enable it to contribute to our arts ecosystem.

The spokesperson said that it had "consistently explained" to The Substation that it would be welcomed back after the renovations, which are targeted for completion in 2023.

However, The Substation would return only as a co-tenant, along with other arts companies. This was meant to "allow for more arts companies to benefit from the enhanced space".

Offered support for The Substation

However, The Substation’s desire was to return as the sole tenant and to be the only user of the entire space, said the NAC spokesperson, adding that autonomy over the space would allow The Substation to generate income from venue hire.

"Commercial venue hire contributed to a substantial proportion of The Substation’s annual revenue. However, NAC was of the view that this was neither feasible nor sustainable in the longer term. In a landscape where there are now more organisations and practitioners, the space would be of greater benefit to the broader arts community, when made available to other arts groups."

The spokesperson also said that nearly 90 per cent of The Substation's income comes from government funding — including commercial tenancy income derived from leasing out parts of the subsidised premises at 45 Armenian Street.

NAC had offered to work with The Substation on the arts centre's review of its artistic and financial strategies, and transform its business model to effect long term sustainability.

Additionally, NAC said it offered support through the period of renovations and beyond, including the offer of several interim premises and increase in grant funding, which comes on top of whatever direct grants that The Substation is already receiving from NAC.

    Respects decision taken

    The NAC spokesperson said that NAC respects the decision taken by the board.

    While the council is "deeply regretful" that its support had been turned down, it assured the arts community that 45 Armenian Street would remain a safe space for future artistic experimentation.

    NAC's offer to The Substation to return as a tenant falls under the Framework for Arts Spaces scheme, a departure from the current Arts Housing Scheme under which it leases 45 Armenian Street to The Substation.

    In The Substation's Facebook post yesterday, co-artistic director, Woon Tien Wei, cautioned that the shift from the Arts Housing Scheme to the Framework for Arts Spaces presents a "worrying trajectory":

    "The Framework for Arts Spaces may be practical for some arts organisations; it alters our sense of ownership of these spaces and affects how arts organisations make places in the future."

    Top image via The Substation Facebook