Is art just not a big deal to people these days?
This is the question I found myself asking last week after opening an email from one of my favourite charities, IdeasTap.
The idea was to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in particular break into creative industries, with the hope of keeping the sector as accessible and diverse as possible during the economic crisis.
Over the last six or seven years IdeasTap has done this by providing a number of useful resources to its members, including
- Funding for creative projects.
- Unique industry opportunities.
- Training and advice.
- An extensive online network of over 200,000 members nationwide (of which I am one) to contact and collaborate with other creatives.
- An online space for members to house and build their portfolios.
- Job listings for creative professions.
In short, they’ve helped many enter professions and careers that would have remained otherwise inaccessible.
So. What could IdeasTap possibly email me that would make me unhappy?
Well, I’ll share with you the opening paragraph…
Hello, Micah. We’re very sad to announce that after six fantastic years, IdeasTap is closing on 2 June. What, why? Unfortunately, the charity simply doesn’t have the funding to continue.
Which, as you might imagine, I found, well, shocking.
In an article for the Huffington Post, De Haan explained the reasons for the closure in more detail
Despite our success, to-date IdeasTap has been primarily funded by my charitable trust. Our efforts to secure government or corporate support have failed – and my charitable trust, which was set up in 1999 to improve the quality of life for people and communities in the UK, will soon run out of money. The result, regrettably, is that IdeasTap will close three months from now.
Now, having benefited from some of the resources available through IdeasTap, my initial response on reading this was – What?! Of all the organisations to provide funding to, no one is willing to support IdeasTap?
I mean these guys are the arts charity in the UK.
How can their contribution not be considered valuable enough to warrant support?
And what does this say about how we value the arts as a society?
We have multi-billion entertainment industries that are in large part based on the skills of creatives (film, television, literature, computer games), and that contribute such huge sums to the economy that in 2009 George Osborne was moved to say
“I still don’t think policymakers have genuinely woken up to the economic importance of the cultural industries.”
In fact, a 2013 report found
‘businesses in the arts and culture industry have… increased their contribution to UK GDP even as the wider economy contracted.’
Meaning that even during the economic downturn the arts sector has continued to pay its way and then some (to the tune of £71.4 billion a year in case you’re wondering).
And then consider that almost every expert on the subject acknowledges that arts-based education and developing skills around creativity will be crucial for the future of modern economies.
And then there are numerous studies indicating how vital the arts are in the development of critical thinking, empathy and problem-solving skills. Meaning this sector doesn’t just have economic value, it has significant social value too.
I mean, these seem like fairly sizeable perks.
And so why do our education systems seldom prioritize the disciplines associated with the arts? And why is it (as in the case of IdeasTap) our governments don’t always use the opportunities available to support them?
If, as Eli Broad once said
‘Civilizations are not remembered by their business people, their bankers or lawyers. They’re remembered by their arts.’
Then shouldn’t it be a priority for a civilised society to invest in the health and future of its cultural industries?
What do you think?
I’ve written before, and in more detail, about why I think art is important but I’d love to get some other views. Maybe I’m only seeing this from one side (i.e. my side. Wouldn’t be the first time).
So tell me;
Should art be a bigger priority to us as a society? Is it, as Eli Broad says, a fundamental part of being civilised?
Or are the arts no more than a luxury; a nice cherry on the cake but far down the list of humanity’s or society’s concerns?
As ever, would love to know your thoughts.