Advancing Disability (&) Arts in Singapore: The Practitioners’ Take

Researched and Written by Nix Sang
September 2019

This research is for the final capstone professional project as part of the graduation requirements for the Master of Non-Profit Management programme offered by the Singapore University of Social Sciences. This work is a longer version of the submitted paper for the above academic requirement. I hope that the contents will serve as a useful source of reference for the emerging conversation around the space of disability and arts. I would love to know if you have used the contents here in any way, be it a formal citation or to frame discussions in panels, workshops and seminars. Please drop me an email to let me know.

I would like to express my greatest appreciation to Dr Justin Lee for his year-long guidance in this research as well as all the artists who have generously shared wholeheartedly their lived experiences, insights, dreams and vision with me.

Abstract

A major Asia Pacific disability and arts festival took place in Singapore on March 2018, branded as a ground-breaking first and history in the making for the disability and arts community in Singapore. Despite the unprecedented scale and international publicity, there were some criticisms from the disability community on the ground. One salient sentiment expressed that this could not be considered a milestone for disability arts in Singapore as the event was not disability-led nor were the acts conveying and showcasing disability culture and voices. Others expressed that there has yet to be true authentic disability arts in Singapore.

So, what is meaningful disability arts from the perspective of disabled artists and how do we progress towards a place where these artists aspire to be?

This study examines how disabled artists define their craft in the spectrum where arts and disability intersect, given that what counts as “disability arts” is often contested and negotiated. The study can facilitate disabled artists’ understanding of the intention and impact associated with their works across the spectrum of disability arts. It can also guide collaborating artists to consider aligning their personal values and motivation towards their craft with those of their counterparts with disabilities in collaborations. The study can provide policy-makers, arts managers, educators and related organisation representatives guiding principles informed by disability perspectives when developing the area of disability arts, including accessible and inclusive programming, talent development, policy-making and strategic planning.

A Note on Terminology

There are different preferences in the local disability community in the disability terminology, including the people-first language (such as persons with disability and persons with autism) and disability-identity-first language (such as Deaf artist and autistic person). This paper uses the preferred term by the individual in cases where it has been explicitly expressed to the researcher, otherwise, the paper adopts both approaches to give equal respect to the different preferences.

  1. Introduction
  2. Description of Project
  3. Literature Review
  4. Methodology
  5. Findings
  6. Discussions
  7. Recommendations
  8. Conclusion, References and Appendices