PM Lee Hsien Loong at the LASALLE College of the Arts 30th Anniversary Gala Dinner

PM Lee Hsien Loong | 5 November 2014

Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the LASALLE College of the Arts  30th Anniversary Gala Dinner on 5 November 2014.


Mr Peter Seah, Chairman of the LASALLE Board

Professor Steve Dixon, President of LASALLE

Distinguished guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a delight to be back this evening to celebrate LASALLE’s 30th Anniversary, and to start off with a fun, quirky and imaginative visualisation and animation just now, and even to turn up at the end of it.  I remember my first visit to LASALLE – around 1990, when LASALLE was still at Goodman Road, and spilling out beyond Goodman Road, they could not quite fit there so there were little pieces which were at the void spaces under the old National Stadium. I visited then and Bro Joseph McNally showed me around with great pride.

A couple of years ago I was here at your new campus at the signing ceremony which marked the beginning of LASALLE’s partnership with Goldsmiths College. It was February 2012. I am glad to hear from Prof Dixon that the partnership with Goldsmiths is doing well. Tonight, I am back for your 30th anniversary.

Recently I was in Milan for the Asia-Europe Meeting Summit and I met the Prime Minister of Ireland, Mr Enda Kenny. He conveyed greetings from James McNally, the brother of Joseph McNally. I said “you know about McNally” and he said “yes” - they were neighbours, they came from the same corner of Ireland. He told me that he knew we had named a road after McNally (1 McNally St) here and this was well appreciated in Ireland! So I thanked him for giving Joseph McNally to us.

LASALLE has come a long way in the last 30 years, starting out in 1984 as the St Patrick’s Arts Centre, offering full-time Diploma programmes in Painting, Ceramics, Sculpture and Music. Then McNally launched LASALLE in the belief that Singapore needed art that represented its culture, its diversity and its identity and to underscore the potential of art to transform social and cultural communities, especially in Singapore which was so focused on science and technology and practical things in life, and to inspire young artists to develop the skills for a career in the arts.

LASALLE has thrived on this mission and made valuable contributions to Singapore. As you heard from Mr Peter Seah just now, many of your graduates have won all kinds of awards - Cultural Medallion, Young Artist Awards, and added to the richness of our cultural identity and national identity.

This year, Mr Chong Fah Cheong, a pioneer teacher here has received the Cultural Medallion. Three LASALLE graduates have won the Young Artist Award – Ian Loy, Jow Zhi Wei, and Lee Mun Wai. Your graduates have become leaders in the creative sector. For example, there is the Phunk Studio, a contemporary art and design collective, founded by four LASALLE Design graduates. It has collaborated with many major brands including Nike, MTV, HTC, and had its artwork featured at many international exhibitions. It had received the President’s Design Award in 2007. That is just one example but many graduates have done well and distinguished themselves in many fields of arts. Well done and congratulations to all!

In Singapore, we have been building peaks of excellence in many different areas to create multiple pathways to success. We have been encouraging Singaporeans to pursue life-long learning, discover your strengths and to hone your skills so that every Singaporean can find your place in our society and contribute to the best of your abilities. This is not just a structural shift in our economy but a cultural and mindset shift that we hope to achieve in our people through setting up the SkillsFuture Council and making this a national movement involving the employers, the unions and the government.

LASALLE is part of this story because deep mastery of skills has always been an important aspect of arts and this was the approach on which LASALLE was founded. Art is not something you take casually, you put your heart and soul in it, you practise it, you refine and perfect it, you obsess about it and you become really good at it.  

LASALLE continues to train students like that and to work with the industry in order to give their students learning experiences which are relevant, enriching, and which expand their horizons and their capabilities. For example, Animation students benefit from workshops delivered by leading professionals from major companies including Lucasfilm, Ubisoft, and Double Negative. LASALLE also facilitates internship opportunities so that they can learn new skills, work on exciting projects, showcase their talents and secure good jobs in well-renowned companies.

I encourage LASALLE and other similar institutions such as the NAFA and the others to continue to make connections between knowledge and real-world application and be part of the vanguard for the mindset change which we embark on. We appreciate your role and hope that you can continue to play an important role for many years to come, in particular in the arts and culture scene of course, creating jobs, upgrading workers, making Singapore a more attractive place to live and work. These are all important things in life. You have to get bread and butter, put bread on the table so that you can take care of yourself and your family. But “Man does not live by bread alone”- we do wish for the finer things in life, to appreciate beauty and love and something uplifting for the spirit. Our nation would not be complete without an appreciation of arts and culture, and without Singa¬≠poreans who create artistic and cultural works.

Arts and culture can help us to grow as a nation together, united by a common cause and shared aspirations and developing a Singaporean voice - be it in dance, in music, in painting, in sculpture, but gradually an identity which is recognisably Singaporean.

So arts and culture is an integral part of our society and we have to continue to nurture it. This is why in school, we not only offer maths and science, but also subjects like literature and history. And we encourage students to take these subjects, not so easy to score As - more challenging, no right or wrong answers but as important as part of the complete education of our young people. That is also why we commission and display art pieces in many of our public spaces and gardens. That is also why we are supporting our artists to grow a more vibrant arts and culture scene in Singapore. So we continue to support institutions like LASALLE because you play an important role in creating a strong cultural base.

You nurture artists and practitioners who create inspiring works, which build on and transcend the diversity of our culture, race or religion. You enable us to discover new ways to express our thoughts and views, to articulate the hopes and dreams of the community. And you help us to understand who we are as Singaporeans, and how far we have come as a nation.

Your 30th anniversary comes on the eve of Singapore’s 50th Birthday. In these 30 short years, LASALLE has contributed a great deal. I look forward to seeing more exciting work from LASALLE and from your graduates. And I look forward to you to continue to make your mark on the next chapter of the Singapore story.

Happy Birthday and congratulations on your many achievements!

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