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The Substation closes permanently because it can no longer occupy the building fully

As co-tenant, it will be unable to control the theatre and gallery, it says

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Singapore — The Substation announced its closure on Tuesday (March 2) after the National Arts Council made it clear that it can be a co-tenant but will not be able to occupy the building fully after renovation.

After more than 30 years on the arts scene, The Substation will close permanently in July when it moves out of its premises at 45 Armenian Street.

According to a Facebook post on Tuesday, the board of The Substation cited two main reasons for its permanent closure – firstly that it will lose a fundamental part of its identity and heritage, and secondly, that as a co-tenant, it will lose autonomy over the usage of the premises.

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In their statement, the members of the Board wrote: “From its opening in 1990, the identity of the arts centre has been inextricably linked to the building, generating a unique and creative buzz that has been central to placemaking in Armenian Street for 30 years”.

They also add that as co-tenants they will be unable to control the building facilities integral to its operations such as the theatre and the gallery.

“These factors impact the Substation’s ability to operate as an independent arts centre and incubator. 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”, the Board added, citing that it did not agree with the NAC’s decision to convert 45 Armenian Street into a multi-tenanted building.

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, The Substation also cited a loss of funds, adding that it relies “heavily on fundraising and several donors have been understandably cautious with their funds”.

In the statement, Mr Chew Kheng Chuan, Chairperson of The Substation, said: “With our closure, we hope that other arts organisations in Singapore will continue to carry the torch to give budding artists a safe space in which to experiment and develop their art. We also hope that the NAC will take a chance on young unproven passionate artists, and support the work of independent arts incubator spaces that have been vital to these artists, as it did for the Substation through the prior 30 years”.

Separately, in an online statement, ArtsEquator.com, an online arts and culture platform that brings together information, events, ideas and people in Southeast Asia, wrote: “Reading this post, words that jump out are ‘inevitable’, ‘luxury’, ‘essential’ and ‘permanent’. Words that have been linked to the arts in Singapore and to discussions about preservation and progress, both historically and in more recent times. Words that will no doubt continue to ring in our ears, long after the death knell of sentinels”.

“This is perhaps also a reminder to some to not take our beloved arts spaces for granted”, it added. /TISG

Update: The NAC responded to The Substation with a statement of their own.

They said: “We are disappointed by the announcement from the Board of The Substation on their decision to close the company permanently. The Substation has been a Major Company with a long history of more than 30 years. It has had a rich history and has contributed significantly to the cultural scene in Singapore.

The Substation has been aware of the decision to renovate 45 Armenian Street since 2017. There have been constructive discussions throughout this time, most recently, when NAC met with the Board of The Substation on 15 February 2021.

Throughout these engagements, NAC has emphasised that it would like for The Substation to continue its role as an arts incubator. Two key matters have been discussed – the use of 45 Armenian Street, and continued support for The Substation to enable it to contribute to our arts ecosystem”.

Their full statement can be found here.

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