The Substation to close permanently after moving out of Armenian Street building

SINGAPORE: After greater than 30 years of being a mainstay within the arts scene, the Substation will shut completely in July when it strikes out of its premises at 45 Armenian Avenue. 

Asserting the choice on Tuesday (Mar 2), the Substation board stated: “This difficult decision was made after lengthy deliberations and several discussions with the National Arts Council (NAC) and with members of the arts community.”

It cited the lack to return absolutely to the premises – a conserved constructing – and the lack of autonomy over the house and amenities.

The unbiased arts centre at the moment leases the premises – a conserved constructing – from the NAC beneath its Arts Housing Scheme, which supplies subsidised areas to the humanities neighborhood.

The Massive Learn: The Substation story — how a disused energy station turned an arts powerhouse that launched a technology of artists

It was beforehand reported that it has to vacate the Armenian Avenue constructing in July for 2 years for renovations.

NAC had advised that the Substation could return to the constructing as a co-tenant when renovations are over, sharing the house with different arts teams. 

However the Substation stated it should lose “a fundamental part of its identity and heritage” if it can not return absolutely to 45 Armenian Avenue.

“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,”it stated in a Fb submit. “There is no other place like it.”

Added Substation chairperson Chew Kheng Chuan: “The board feels a deep responsibility to the local arts community to preserve the identity and heritage of the Substation as an independent arts centre.”

Earlier than Tuesday’s announcement, the Substation was contemplating relocating to different venues, together with Goodman Arts Centre in Mountbatten and Aliwal Arts Centre in Kampong Glam.


Based in 1990 by Cultural Medallion winner and playwright Kuo Pao Kun, the Substation has supported many artists of their careers. 

13 Cultural Medallion recipients are related to the centre, the board stated.

The Big Read: The Substation story (6)
Over the past three many years, each the constructing at 45 Armenian Avenue and its environment have seen many adjustments. And a few of these interviewed by TODAY imagine that the magic of The Substation has pale considerably. (Photograph: TODAY/Raj Nadarajan)

Even when it returns to the Armenian Avenue constructing as a co-tenant, there will likely be an impression on its capability to function independently, it stated.

“The Substation will be unable to control the building facilities integral to its operations such as the theatre and gallery. This has two implications, namely, the loss of autonomy over the spaces and facilities crucial for its mission, and the loss of income from venue hiring,” it stated.

“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,” it added.

“With respect, the board does not agree with NAC’s decision to convert 45 Armenian Street into a multi-tenanted building.”

CNA has contacted NAC for extra data.


The Substation board additionally acknowledged “broader reasons” contributing to its closure, such because the COVID-19 financial downturn making fundraising for the humanities “especially difficult”.

“The Substation relies heavily on fundraising and several donors have been understandably cautious with their funds. Other donors have refocused their philanthropic outreach which has resulted in a lower priority for the arts,” stated the board.

“NAC did offer grants to help the Substation tide over the next two years and a subsidised office space at Goodman Arts Centre, but this will still result in halving our current budget, entailing a drastic reduction in staff strength and programming.”

Mr Chew stated the board hopes that different 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.”

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