Why everyone needs to make time for the Arts
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