Hoe Su Fern is an arts researcher, educator and coordinator who traverses artistic disciplines and mediums. She is currently Assistant Professor and Assistant Program Lead of Arts and Culture Management at the Singapore Management University. She holds a PhD in Culture and Communication from The University of Melbourne. Her research areas include arts and cultural policy studies, urban cultural economies, arts spaces and creative placemaking.
She is exploring diverse ways to pursue practice-oriented and engaged research on the arts. Her recent projects include principal investigator for “A Cultural Mapping of Community Arts in Singapore,” and “Breaking Ground: The Impact of the Arts Housing Policy on Arts Development in Singapore: 1985 – 2015”, researcher for the arts co-operative model experiment by The Substation, and researcher for “Between the Lines: Rant & Rave II” – a verbatim theatre production on the literary history of Singapore. She is also keen on catalysing robust and collegiate discourse on arts and culture in Singapore, as coordinator of the “Living Room Session and Exhibition on Tracing Cultural Policy in Singapore” at Centre 42, convenor-producer of the Singapore Biennale 2016 Symposium, and founder-convenor of discussion platforms like the SMU-Substation Arts and Cultures Matters Series. Prior to her current position, she held appointments at The Institute of Policy Studies, Ministry of Communications and Information and The Supreme Court.
All across the globe, the arts and culture have been reified as expedient resources crucial to the branding of liveable cities. Singapore is no exception. Though not their sole focus, the Singapore Government has been engaged in a concerted effort to utilise the arts to brand and rejuvenate Singapore into a liveable and vibrant city.
This paper critically examines the nature, extent and implications of the use of the arts as a city branding strategy in Singapore. In particular, this paper will focus on the urban planning efforts to place-manage Bras Basah.Bugis precinct – an area in central Singapore – into a lively arts and heritage district. Through an analysis of policy documents and qualitative ethnographic fieldwork, this paper will explore the interplays that exist between top-down aspirations, formal urban planning efforts, market-driven forces and local artistic and cultural production. Ultimately, this paper is but a starting point to rethink the role of local artists and the arts in enculturing an ambitious and pragmatic city like Singapore, especially in times of urban complexity and austerity.