The assistant chief executive officer of International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, Ms Kathy Lai, 48, will be taking over the reins of the National Arts Council (NAC) as chief executive officer on Nov 1.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth announced her appointment yesterday. She takes up the post vacated by Esplanade chief Benson Puah, who stepped down in August. Ms Yvonne Tham, the current covering CEO, will continue as deputy CEO.

Ms Lai said she is looking forward to her new position, and told The Straits Times that her first order of action is to get to know the arts scene better. She is also keen to build up patronage for artists in Singapore.

She said: "I don't think I can champion a community that I don't know, so the first thing I will do is to connect with the community.

"I will make sure I catch up with what the NAC has been doing all along, and really get to know the community and understand where they are coming from, what their aspirations are, what challenges they are facing, and take some time to digest all that and then chart out what to do next."

Ms Lai joined the Ministry of Trade and Industry in 1987 and the former Trade Development Board (now IE Singapore) in 1996. She also sits on the board of directors for Spring Singapore.

The arts council's newly appointed chairman, Professor Chan Heng Chee, 71, was ambassador to the United States from 1996 to last year, and worked with Ms Lai during the latter's posting to Washington when she was with IE Singapore.

Prof Chan said: "Kathy is a very creative and dynamic person, and I know that she is someone very interested in the arts.

"She is a friend of the arts, and I think she will bring a good energy to build on what has been done by Benson Puah."

However, many of the local art practitioners The Straits Times spoke to were unfamiliar with Ms Lain, given her background in trade and industry.

Director Alvin Tan, 50, founder of theatre company The Necessary Stage, is adopting a wait-and-see stance.

But he also commented on what he saw as someone new being "parachuted" into the position. He had hoped that Ms Tham, the covering CEO, with her "intimate" knowledge of the arts scene in Singapore, could have taken the post.

Mr Tan said: "Yvonne was really on the ground with Benson. I have always seen the logic of continuity with Yvonne."

But Mr Chong Tze Chien, 37, company director of theatre group The Finger Players, said: "To be fair, I think we should always give the space and time to the new CEO, for her to get to know the council, and for us to get to know her as well."

Actress and Nominated MP for the arts Janice Koh, 39, said: "I think we can afford to move away from the 'one great man' or 'one great woman' theory of leadership, even in the arts.

"The development of our arts scene is not reliant on just one individual. We should trust that we have capable and experienced arts leaders in Singapore's various cultural organisations," she said.

"So long as NAC continues to build on these relationships and work closely and collaboratively with them, we should feel confident the scene will flourish and move forward".