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FOUR years ago, when social entrepreneur Colin Goh first set eyes on the carpark on the 10th storey of Orchard Central, he could not imagine it being turned into an arts space. But the offer by Far East Organization, which owns the shopping mall, was simply too good to resist.
"So I thought long and hard about it and eventually came up with the design plans that were acceptable to Far East Organization," says Mr Goh, CEO of The RICE Company, a non-profit arts and cultural organisation.
Four years on, with construction also funded by Far East Organization, the carpark has been completely transformed into 10 Square @ Orchard Central - or 10sq, for short - which houses a theatre auditorium, three music studios, a visual arts studio, a dance studio, and a service- training cafe called Happy Pancakes.
The 13,000 square foot space is now the new arts space for hundreds of disadvantaged youths aged 13 to 19, who are receiving free arts training through The Business Times Budding Artists Fund (BTBAF). The RICE Company, which manages the fund, also teaches the youths business fundamentals such as finance, marketing and arts management.
Last Saturday, 10sq was officially opened by Low Yen Ling, Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. In her speech, she commended the founders of BTBAF for "having the vision to champion the arts for the less privileged and levelling the playing field in the arts. The vision, which began 10 years ago, plays an instrumental part in advancing the arts scene in Singapore."
10sq is an extension of The RICE Company's Little Arts Academy, which trains BTBAF beneficiaries aged 5-12. When they turn 13, they can continue to receive arts training in 10sq.
Alvin Tay, editor of The Business Times, says: "Some people underestimate the power of the arts in helping young people from less privileged backgrounds gain confidence in themselves. But through The Business Times Budding Artists Fund, I've personally witnessed some tremendous transformations taking place among those who have enrolled in these programmes."
Meanwhile, 10sq's in-house cafe Happy Pancakes helps youths acquire hospitality and service skills while simultaneously raising funds for the less privileged in Singapore and Japan. A collaboration between The RICE Company and a Japanese non-profit company called Little Creators, the cafe received a sponsorship of S$100,000 from Owl International in a partnership that will teach the cafe trainees how to make traditional coffee.
10sq has also attracted other sponsors such as the Timbre Group, which gives music lessons through its Timbre Music Academy, and GEMS Star, a social business enterprise which teaches make-up and grooming.
At the ChildAid concert this Friday and Saturday, several dancers who received training through the BTBAF will be performing alongside the finest child talents in the country.
A number of accomplished Child- Aid alumni - including classical guitar virtuoso Kevin Loh and pop star Farisha Ishak - have also been invited back to perform at the charity concert, which supports the BTBAF and The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.
ChildAid will be held on Dec 5 at 7.30pm, and on Dec 6 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm at Marina Bay Sands. Tickets at S$18, S$28 and S$38 (excluding booking fees) are available from www.marinabaysands.com/ticketing