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Juliana Lim

Influential arts manager and administrator.

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Published: 12 Oct 2016


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Juliana Lim is an influential arts manager and administrator who helped to bolster Singapore’s arts scene from the ’70s to the ’90s. Working in organisations such as the Ministry of Culture and Singapore Arts Centre, she led important initiatives such as the creation of arts grants, artist assistance schemes and the Arts Housing Scheme, which housed many arts groups affordably in the mid ’80s. She also led the creation of Singapore Heritage Week and the Heritage Trail, and the compilation and publication of Zubir Said’s musical scores just before his death. Currently the Community Connections Director in Singapore Pools, she set up the OperaViva club in 2009 to promote the appreciation of Baroque, New and Asian opera in Singapore.

Born in 1950 in Singapore, Juliana Lim grew up listening to Latin masses at her church choir conductor father’s knee and singing in church choirs, which exposed her to choral and classical music. She became further interested in the arts while studying literature at Marymount Convent and Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus in the ’60s.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Hons in Sociology) from the University of Singapore in 1973, Lim’s first working experiences were with the Singapore Administrative Service in a series of ministry postings. She worked at the Ministry of Education in 1974, followed by the Ministry of Communications from 1974 to 1976, and the Ministry of National Development in 1977. In 1978, for her fourth posting, she was sent to People’s Association where she became Assistant Director of Programmes, beginning her 18-year career in arts management. During this time, she worked as Secretary of Singapore Cultural Foundation Management Committee (1981–1990), Assistant Director at the Ministry of Culture (1981–1984), Deputy Director (Cultural Services) of the Ministry of Community Development (1985–1990), Deputy Director (Corporate Services) of Ministry of Information and the Arts (1990–1993), and General Manager of the Singapore Arts Centre Co Ltd (now The Esplanade Co Ltd) (1993–1997).

During her time in the arts, Lim organised numerous cultural and arts events including the Chingay Parade; festivals of choral music, instrumental music, Chinese instrumental music; the UOB Painting of the Year competition; and the Singapore International Jazz Festival. She also became heavily involved in fundraising for the arts especially while she was with the Singapore Cultural Foundation and initiated numerous arts grants. During what she calls her “golden years” in the mid ’80s, struck with how short-lived events were and how much work it took the artists to create them, Lim turned her focus to assisting artists with various assistance schemes to help them further their art-making. One of these was the Semi-Residential Status in Theatre Scheme initiated in 1987 to give promising arts groups four assured performing seasons a year gratis in the theatres.

Concerned about arts housing, Lim also started and implemented in 1985 the Arts Housing Scheme to give arts groups space at affordable rents. Under this scheme, disused buildings were secured for use as performing arts centres. Many arts groups benefited from the scheme, resulting in new arts spaces such as the Telok Ayer Performing Arts Centre, Stamford Arts Centre, Telok Kurau Arts Centre, Cairnhill Arts Centre, Hong Lim Community Centre and The Substation.

In the same vein, Lim also proposed the development of the Heritage Trail. This led to the use of historical buildings to house arts and heritage organisations. As a result, today, the Singapore Art Museum resides in the former site of St Joseph’s Institution, and the Perenakan Museum calls a newly restored Old Tao Nan School building its home. She also pioneered the Singapore Heritage Week and organised the first few Singapore Heritage Weeks with participation from the Ministry of Community Development Arts Division, National Library, National Museum of Singapore, National Archives and Oral History Department.

Lim was General Manager of the Singapore Arts Centre Co Ltd (precursor to The Esplanade Co Ltd) from 1993 to 1997. In total, her involvement with the arts centre spanned 11 years, from 1986 in the Ministry of Community Development when the first theatre consultant was appointed to develop the centre’s user brief, to 1997. Aside from the challenges faced in presenting the schematic design to the public, her best memories of the project are of the stimulating dialogue sessions between Singapore and Asian artists, architects, acousticians and theatre consultants, all inspired by the vision of creating a world-class performing arts centre.

In 1982, Lim published Singapore Artists, the first coffee table book on Singapore artists, who were chosen by a committee chaired by Liu Kang.

Although Lim resigned from public service in 1997 to join Singapore Pools as a Director of Public Affairs & Corporate Social Responsibility, the arts enthusiast continues to frequent arts events and volunteer in the arts. In 2009, she started the OperaViva Club to promote appreciation of Baroque, New and Asian opera in Singapore. She still serves on its board of directors today. She is President of the Richard Wagner Association (Singapore), and in 2016, co-produced Singapore's first full-length staging of a Wagner opera, The Flying Dutchman.

Singapore Arts Manager (1980s-90s)

Timeline

1950

Born in Singapore.

1966

Graduated from Marymount Convent.

1968

Graduated from Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, Victoria Street.

1973

Graduated with Bachelor of Social Sciences (Upper Two Hons in Sociology), University of Singapore.
Worked in Singapore Administrative Service for the Ministry of Education.

1974 to 1976

Worked in Singapore Administrative Service for the Ministry of Communications.

1977

Worked in Singapore Administrative Service for the Ministry of National Development.

1978 to 1981

Assistant Director, Programmes, People’s Association.

1981 to 1984

Assistant Director (Music & Visual Arts), Ministry of Culture.
Organised music events including festivals of choral and Chinese instrumental music, National Music Competition, and Singapore International Jazz Festival. Organised visual arts events including National Day Art and Photographic Competition, SIA Singapore Innovations in Art Competition, and UOB Painting of the Year Competition.

1981 to 1990

Secretary, Management Committee, Singapore Cultural Foundation.
Distributed grants for arts events, exhibitions and oversears arts scholarships. Published Singapore Artists and Zubir Said: His Songs..

1985 to 1990

Deputy Director, Cultural Services, Ministry of Community Development.
Started new division to develop new arts assistance schemes like Annual Grants, Semi-Residential Status in Theatres Scheme and Arts Housing Scheme.

1986

Started work on the Singapore Performing Arts Centre (SPAC), including the setting up of the SPAC Steering Committee and the appointment of the first theatre consultant.
Started Singapore Heritage Week and secured heritage buildings such as the St. Joseph's Institution building and the Tao Nan School building for the housing of museums under the Tourist Product Development Plan (Heritage Trail project).

1990 to 1992

Deputy Director, Corporate Services, Ministry of Communications and Information, which became Ministry of Informations and the Arts.
Helped merge arts portfolio from Ministry of Community Development and the information portfolio from Minisitry of Communications and Information to form Ministry of Informations and the Arts.

1992 to 1997

General Manager, Singapore Arts Centre Co. Ltd. (now known as The Esplanade Co. Ltd)
Participated in the design development of the centre until just after the ground-breaking ceremony. Was Secretary to Singapore Arts Centre Steering Committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Ong Teng Cheong, and later Minister George Yeo with President Ong Teng Cheong as advisor. Organised consultation sessions between architects and Users Advisory Committee, Architecture & Aesthetics Advisory Committee, Asian Performing Artists Panel, and Commercial Advisory Panel.

1995 to 2004

Vice-president, councillor and auditor, Southeast Asia Ceramic Society.

Apr 1997

Joined Singapore Pools Pte Ltd.

1998 to 2008

Member, Board of Directors, DramaPlus Arts.

2001 to 2008

Member, various National Arts Council panels.

2001 to Jun 2006

Member, Board of Directors, ARTS FISSION.

2012

Community Connections Director, Singapore Pools (Private) Limited
Arts Volunteerism
Member, Tote Board Art Fund (wef 2008) Director, OperaViva Limited (wef 2009)


TributeSG

TributeSG celebrates the arts community’s most senior members, and those who have made a lifetime of contribution to the arts. These artists, administrators, educators, patrons, and champions include many Singapore arts pioneers who laid the foundations of the vibrant arts and cultural scene we enjoy today. The many profiles in TributeSG let us into the minds and worlds of these pioneers, and help us understand our shared arts heritage. When we revisit their works and rediscover their journeys, we learn where we came from and how we came to be. Collectively, their stories tell the tale of the making of a nation’s artistic identity.

In putting together this collection, the TributeSG team consulted an external advisory panel, consisting of Arun Mahiznan, Choo Thiam Siew, J. P. Nathan, K. K. Seet, Kwok Kian Chow, and Iskandar Ismail. Those selected to be profiled in TributeSG met one of the following criteria: they were at least 60 years of age as of 12 Oct 2016, or deceased, or had received national recognition in the form of the Cultural Medallion. This journey of arts archival officially came to a close on 12 Oct 2016, after four years of extensive research, interviews and collation of information graciously provided by the TributeSG pioneers, their families and peers. TributeSG also benefited from enthusiastic help from like-minded friends and organisations who supported Esplanade’s cause—to remember, honour and celebrate Singapore’s arts pioneers.

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