S'pore arts centre The Substation to close permanently after leaving Armenian Street building

After 30 years of operation.

Syahindah Ishak | March 02, 2021, 12:13 PM

The first independent contemporary arts centre in Singapore, The Substation, will be permanently closed from July 2021, after 30 years of operation.

In a statement on March 2, The Substation's board said that this decision was made after "lengthy deliberations and several discussions" with the National Arts Council (NAC), and with members of the arts community.

Why is it closing down?

It was previously announced that The Substation will have to vacate 45 Armenian Street in July 2021 for two years to make way for renovations.

NAC has suggested that The Substation may return to the street as a co-tenant when renovations are over.

However, it will be one of several co-tenants and will not be able to occupy the building in full capacity.

Due to the inability to fully return to its place of origin, the board said that it has arrived at two key conclusions:

1. They would lose part of their identity and heritage

Firstly, The Substation will lose a "fundamental part" of its identity and heritage if it cannot fully return to 45 Armenian Street.

The Substation's board explained that since its opening in 1990, the identity of the arts centre has been "inextricably linked" to the building.

2. Unable to control building facilities

Secondly, even if it returned as a co-tenant, The Substation would not be able to control the building facilities, such as the theatre and gallery, that are integral to its operations.

The board says this will lead to the loss of income from venue hiring and thus impact The Substation's ability to operate as an independent arts centre and incubator.

Additionally, 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".

Therefore, the board stated that it does not agree with NAC's decision to convert 45 Armenian Street into a multi-tenanted building.

Also affected by the Covid-19 pandemic

There are also broader reasons that have contributed to the closure, said the board.

The Substation relies heavily on fundraising.

But the economic downturn triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic has made fundraising for the arts difficult.

According to the board, several donors have been cautious with their funds. Other donors have refocused their philanthropic outreach.

NAC offered grants to help The Substation tide over the next two years and a subsidised office space at Goodman Arts Centre.

However, this will still result in halving The Substation's current budget, reducing its staff strength and programming.

What will happen from now till July 2021?

From now till its closure, The Substation will continue the celebrations of its 30th anniversary at 45 Armenian Street.

Its programmes will continue as per normal and its venues have been hired until July 2021.

SeptFest 2021 will also continue to run from March 4 to March 28.

If you intend to bid farewell to the arts centre, The Substation is planning to organise a soft launch of its archives later this year.

This soft launch will be accompanied by a week of specially designed events.

More information will be provided on The Substation's website in due course.

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Top image via Google Maps.