GP Essay Arts in the society

Is it fair to say that the Arts do nothing to solve the problems of your society?

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In today’s industrialised and globalised society, what people seem to value the most are entities that bring about the most in material wealth and commercial value. To many, arts are typically condemned to spend their eternity on the pristine walls of museums. One merely has to compare the number of artists such as Painters, Singers, Dancers and Musicians to the number of Engineers, Doctors, Accountants and Lawyers to see the stark difference in society’s emphasis.

As such, Arts being intrinsically abstract does not seem to solve the problems of Singapore. However, it is far too hasty to generalise that the arts lack the ability to solve the problems of Singapore; despite not having a significant and tangible economic contribution to Singapore’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product). In the past, the arts satisfy the innate psychological needs of humans and promote unity. Increasingly, there is a heightened awareness that exposure to the arts brings revenue to Singapore.


The race to become an economic pre-eminence from all countries has been made possible at the expense of other ancillary developments such as the Arts. Some pragmatists have enunciated their views that the focus of the economy is critical to the development of a nation. Hence, arts may not seem to be able to solve the pressing issue of generating economic revenues, where we seek economic developments.

After World War 2, many countries were in tatters. About 62% of people worldwide were in abject poverty.

Singapore was not excluded. Many people were jobless, there was no stability and their focus was on survival. To address the persistently high unemployment rate, many governments mainly placed their focus on developing the core economy. This has led to a number of countries becoming more prosperous, notably Singapore, which has risen to become a developed country today. To many individuals, the arts have been perceived as recreational activities that individuals indulge in and revenue generated is not colossal. Many individuals focus on survival, concentrating on other sectors that bring higher revenue. Hence, in the process of achieving stupendous economic growth, the arts have been forgotten.

Some pragmatists argued that to further alleviate poverty, emphasis on a country’s monetary resources should be allocated to other sectors that could potentially generate higher revenue for the State and not the arts. As a result, it may engender the misconception that arts lack the ability to solve pressing issues.


Prima facie, it may be true. However, after considering the state of Singapore’s economy post World War 2, there were compelling arguments to focus predominantly on economic developments by developing other sectors. Singapore has now become a Private Banking hub and it is analogous to the Switzerland of the Far East where many UHNWs (Ultra High Net Worth Individuals) and HNWs place their wealth here. Singapore has the ability to develop the art scene and potentially derive huge economic revenue from it. With a relatively stable economy and low unemployment rate, Singapore today has the ability to focus on soft powers that bring communities together, like the Arts.

These days, arts have been placed at the forefront with the refurbishment of many heritage sites. Historical artefacts were obtained from individuals to be showcased at museums. Moreover, governments have been placing more emphasis on the arts to showcase heritages and cultures unique to their citizens. Recently in Singapore, local artists have undertaken a public art project by drawing murals on the walls, expressing our unique heritage and culture. This underscores the steady increase of appreciation and exposure for the Arts. With more people indulging in the art scene, art revenue has increased over the years. In a report by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) in 2015, in 2013, the art revenue generated has increased to 1552.2 million, as compared to 921.7 million in 2003.

One can posit that the arts are inextricably linked to the lives of people today. ​I opine that with the direction the world is going towards, arts would generate more revenue in the years to come, providing Singaporean artists with employment and also generating greater economic growth.


In today’s highly competitive workforce for one to be ranked at the top of their profession, it has unwittingly resulted in indescribable stress amongst many working professionals. According to a Straits Times’ survey, more and more young professionals in Singapore conceded that the day to day drudgery has worn them out. Therefore, the stress experienced by many worldwide can be diminished by expressing ourselves in the Arts.

In a study conducted by Girija Kaimal, Assistant Professor of Creative Arts Therapies at Drexel University, 75% of people have recorded reduced stress levels after doing art, no matter how bad they are at it. Arguably, arts are able to satisfy the psychological needs of many today and are critical to our lives.

Art Therapy is another quintessential case. Art therapy has become increasingly popular, aimed at targeting primarily individuals to improve their emotional state or mental well-being. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in four people will be affected by mental disorders at some point in their lives. Art therapy can be used to help these individuals as they encourage their feelings and emotions through the various forms of arts such as drawing, colouring, just to name a few.

The scourge of mental illnesses can be remedied by art therapy, as well as providing relief to individuals This seems to strongly postulate that Arts are highly germane to today’s world.


The Arts have the ability to unite individuals worldwide, which is critical for world peace. Nelson Mandela aptly said: “Music is a great blessing. It has the power to elevate and liberate us. It sets people free to dream. It can unite us to sing with one voice. Such is the value of music.”

When an individual listens to music, the feelings and emotions of a singer are conveyed to the listener, irrespective of the language used. When a listener is able to feel the emotions emanating from the singer, feelings of the listener will be evoked. Listeners may then bond through a song as they are able to empathize with the singer. Hence, art may encourage us to be more tolerant of the differences between others. The encounter with art itself and with others can help us identify with one another, expand our notions of ‘we’, promoting unity, even though we may not feel the same emotions when previewing an art piece.

Moreover, many contemporary Arts have been moving in tandem with what is happening around the world today. Arts have been used as a medium to inform individuals of how the latest happenings and developments are perceived by other individuals. Through this, empathy may be promoted, individuals would gain better insights. Since arts have the ability to provide an alternative view that binds society together, it is integral for Singapore – a multi-racial society. Hence, the usage of Arts to promote unity to ensure that racial and religious problems are minimised is critical to Singapore today.


The Arts have manifold purposes and benefits. With the increasing awareness and acceptance of Arts which lead to higher revenues generated, the Arts also have the ability to unite individuals, as well as providing psychological relief. In today’s demanding world, arts would continue to flourish. The tentacles of Arts have spread to many parts of our society today and therefore have held a prominent place in our world today. Hence, I strongly believe that Arts will continue to remain an inseparable part of our lives as its ability to solve pressing issues in Singapore becomes more prominent.

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