Dull. Devoid of colour. Depressing. That’s what our lives would be like without art. Which makes it all the more puzzling why we don’t place more value on artistic pursuits.
We all enjoy a wander around an art gallery or attending a live musical performance, but we don’t really value art. We admire those who have succeeded in making it.
Think about it, children who harbour ambitions of being a musician or a painter are routinely told by teachers and parents to think about a more ‘serious’ career; they’re told to prioritise a professional job and see their artistic pursuits as more of a hobby.
This is in stark contrast to our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland, who last week announced a pioneering scheme that will pay budding artists benefits for a whole year. Under the proposed scheme artists will have time to pursue their practice, rehearse, or develop a portfolio with the cushion of the equivalent to jobseeker’s allowance being paid to them. £168.80 per week – compared to the UK’s paltry £78.10 – will give them security and allow them to focus on honing their craft.
So, why is art important?
Not every child will be an astronaut
In the words of Albert Einstein: “everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” School curriculums are, or at least were, diverse for a reason. Some kids excel in maths and science, some find their niche in drama and music. A schoolchild is a blank canvass; their curiosity should be nurtured not restricted.
Art gives people a voice
Art reflects the reality of the world we live in. Socially or politically engaged art is an antidote to the over formalised and exclusive world of politics that is inaccessible for most. It’s unlikely that a London MC will be invited to speak at the House of Commons about democracy or the NHS. But give them a microphone and they now have a vehicle to spread their message to millions of people.
Creativity begets more creativity
Being creative in an artistic context can inform various other aspects of our lives. Working on a creative side project that is completely unrelated to your day-to-day work can help unlock a breakthrough. Being open-minded to art and the process behind it has untold benefits.
There are plenty of spaces where our behaviour is dictated to. We must act and speak in a certain way at school and then again when we start work. We are told to tone down our personality in public if we’re deemed too raucous for others to digest. Art is a space where anything is permitted. Art enables us to scream as loud as we want without fear of reprisal or judgement.
Challenge the status quo
Art has the power to change the world. It’s an act of resistance. Plastic pollution is a problem gripping our oceans. The starkest representation of this problem is the increasing number of whales washing up on beaches having ingested untold amounts of the stuff. To draw attention to the issue, an artist in the Philippines unveiled a gigantic installation that looks eerily like a dead whale, with its plastic-filled intestines spilling onto the sand.
It doesn’t discriminate
Art is inclusive of everyone. It does not discriminate based on gender, skin colour, religion or sexuality. There are no predetermined qualifiers to engage in art.
Imagination and creativity should not be seen as added extras to a person’s skillset; they are integral to what differentiates us from other species and drive our aspirations. Without art the predictability of reality would become insufferable.
Why is art important to you? How would you reposition the arts to convey their importance to society and culture? Share your thoughts with us at @otbtweeter – we’d love to hear them!