By Teresa Teo Lay Yan

How do we define excellence in the arts? Is there an effective way to measure and judge the quality of the arts? These are some burning questions artists and funding bodies need to ask if they are to push for excellence of the arts to the next level.


My personal encounter and experience cum making small talks with people in the arts seemed to suggest that the arts, culture and language are inseparable entities. They provide the avenues for rich cultural experiences, help us to define who we are in our cultural context and also in relation to the wider world. For example, the Maori community of New Zealand and the Italian Renaissance are good examples of interweaving the arts, culture and language within the community. People who are ‘culturally excellent’ are able to make sense of their purpose and existence in the world they live in, thinking philosophically beyond their understanding, be innovative in seeking answers and solving problems in ways we would not have thought of. Most of all, learn to appreciate the finer things in life and be truly human. These are attributes of a great flourishing civilisation, as evidenced in the Renaissance era or the Tang dynasty. In a fast pace modern world, where we do not even have the time to stop and smell the roses, I wonder whether we would ever experience another Renaissance era or the Tang dynasty, where the arts and cultural experiences are at their high point. It will depend on how we promote and value the arts in our community to bring about artistic and cultural excellence in society.


I am aware that the arts take on many forms. May I confine my views within the visual arts for the purpose of this art blog. I strongly feel that for visual arts to flourish in society, we need to build ‘artistic excellence’ in the community and increase the pool of audience who can appreciate and value art. Art need not be confined within the art elites in society. As funding bodies need to justify spending and measure the outcomes in promoting the arts, and that includes visual arts, it is thus crucial to establish a non-bureaucratic method in assessing and judging the quality of the artworks.


The ’art is not for me’ syndrome is the biggest barrier to prevent people from having art experiences that would have otherwise enriched and transformed their lives. To encourage a wider and deeper engagement in art, we need to develop a culturally informed audience who value and appreciate art enough to purchase paintings in support of artists, to champion art causes and help art to flourish.


Last but not least, what is the role of a visual artist? I resonate with Sir Brian McMaster who asserted, ‘One of the most important parts of an artist’s role in society is to question, to provoke, to aggravate and, at times, to anger.’ (McMaster, 2008, p.11)


I supposed the above is what it means to be truly human, someone who is able to feel, think, reflect and act!



McMaster, B.(2008).Supporting Excellence in the Arts: From Measurement to Judgement, in Supporting Excellence in the Art,Department for Culture, Media and Sport, London, U.K. Retrieved from,


About the Author

Ms Teresa Teo Lay Yan is the founder and managing director of Dove Doodle Pte Ltd. She writes for the Company’s blog and engages the community through the visual arts. To learn more about the author, CLICK the ‘Founder’s Profile’.