The Abstract

Enclosed is the final abstract of my research paper. I look forward to publishing my final paper to the network very soon.

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Not long ago, street art in urban spaces was considered a menace by building owners and policymakers alike– it embodied vandalism associated with marginalized and underdeveloped communities. For artists, it is a form of expression, freedom to rebel, and bond a community. As cities have grown, there is a quest to revitalize urban spaces by using the very phenomenon that was seemingly destructive. The city-state of Singapore is an example where the philosophy of street art has changed its associations from “destructive” to an opportunity for urban renewal. Singapore has created a strong sense of nationalism from the three central ethnic communities (Chinese, Malays, and Indians) that have resided since the country’s founding. With this, the Urban Renewal Authority of Singapore has designated historic neighborhoods to represent each community. These ethnic communities have been associated with themes and images of murals within the designated space. T.C Chang, one of the crucial scholars in this field of research, finds evidence of Singapore undergoing a transition to a renaissance city, one that implies the revitalization of old architecture and the economy through the inclusion of a vibrant art scene. He argues that this new creativity narrative is dually influenced by the desire to globalize and by the locals to retain control over the narrative. However, this field of research does not address the literal artistic tradition of these mural works, nor do they provide insight into the new actors who now have a stake in changing the focal themes of these works and how residents of Singapore receive them.  In Singapore’s mission to foster a global city for the arts and more largely become a prominent player in global affairs, I argue that the function and impact of mural art on the residents who are living in these designated neighborhoods, and the Singaporean people as a whole, has moved away from just being indicative of the ethnic communities. Examining three legally designated neighborhoods: Kampong Glam (a historical precinct), Tiong Bahru (a secondary settlement), and Housing Development Boards,  I find that there is even an internationalization in mural artistic tradition, which results in a widening definition of community in Singapore. With more curatorial organizations and independent artists getting involved in the mural art scene, they have a strong agency in steering the narrative of community and mural imagery and philosophy in comparison to the urban development authorities of Singapore. This paper aims to create a thread establishing how public art in various spheres determines the creation of a new complex dynamic between the community the art is set in, the artists who create the works, the property owner where the art is displayed, and the government. It is this dynamic that showcases the intersection between art, urban development, and the unique developmental goals of multiple actors.

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