Why ev­ery­one needs to make time for the Arts

Country Life Every Week - - Athena -

EV­ERY­ONE who loves the Arts is at­tuned to the un­equalled power they pos­sess to trans­form lives. When they touch the young, more­over, they not only cre­ate new gen­er­a­tions of painters, sculp­tors, mu­si­cians and cu­ra­tors, but fu­ture en­thu­si­asts and au­di­ences as well. Athena shares the dis­may of the many cultural fig­ures who have rightly called at­ten­tion to the pres­sure be­ing placed on the Arts in education by fund­ing cuts.

In this sense, she is also sup­port­ive of the mo­tives be­hind the new com­mis­sion on cre­ativ­ity and education re­cently an­nounced by Arts Coun­cil Eng­land. That said, it’s hard to imag­ine that the 18 months of labour in­volved will re­ally tell us any­thing that wasn’t per­fectly ob­vi­ous al­ready. She’s also con­cerned that it might dis­tract from equally press­ing is­sues about the en­gage­ment with the Arts at the op­po­site de­mo­graphic ex­treme.

Ev­ery gen­er­a­tion grows up, so although gal­leries, mu­se­ums and con­cert halls gen­er­ally at­tract older au­di­ences, it has al­ways been a re­as­sur­ance that their ranks will be nat­u­rally re­plen­ished. Things are chang­ing, how­ever. The ris­ing age of re­tire­ment means that more peo­ple are re­main­ing em­ployed for longer in their lives and are par­tak­ing less in the Arts.

As a corol­lary, the ranks of the ac­tive re­tired—the group that has been perhaps the most in­volved with the Arts of any—prom­ises to di­min­ish ap­pre­cia­bly. They also face fresh de­mands on their time and re­sources. Never be­fore, for ex­am­ple, have grand­par­ents taken so much re­spon­si­bil­ity for the care of their chil­dren’s chil­dren. Con­se­quently, the main­stay of Bri­tain’s tradition of char­i­ta­ble vol­un­teer­ing is threat­ened. All at a time when cuts to Arts bod­ies are mak­ing them more de­pen­dent upon vol­un­tary sup­port than ever be­fore. So far, it has been pos­si­ble to make vol­un­teer­ing more flex­i­ble, but it’s not clear whether this ap­proach will suf­fice in the long term.

One or­gan­i­sa­tion is at­tempt­ing to take its re­sponse to these prob­lems fur­ther. The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Dec­o­ra­tive and Fine Arts So­ci­eties (NADFAS) will be a chang­ing its name: from May, it will be­come the Arts So­ci­ety. NADFAS com­prises more than 370 lo­cal groups across the UK and Europe and or­gan­ises lec­ture se­ries and vol­un­teer projects.

The fu­ture in­ten­tion is to com­ple­ment the so­ci­ety’s lo­cal ac­tiv­i­ties with a cen­trally-or­gan­ised pro­gramme of events. In the process, it’s hoped to broaden its ap­peal through all age groups and reach peo­ple who are in­ter­ested in its work, but un­able to make a reg­u­lar com­mit­ment to it. This will in­clude the re­tired as well as par­ents and busy professionals.

Athena could set up a com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate the value of the idea, but it seems quite clear that any life with­out the Arts is one nec­es­sar­ily im­pov­er­ished.

‘More peo­ple are re­main­ing em­ployed for longer and are par­tak­ing less in the Arts

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