The value of art

As all four institutions have recently had or have got upcoming significant performances be that panto, young voices, We Will Rock You or Beauty and the Beast, I thought it might be worthwhile just reflecting upon the value of artistic endeavour in the education system at this time.

It’s worthwhile saying that over the last 10 years or so, there has been something of a reduction, at a system level, in the importance of creative and performing arts in schools and colleges. This is a reflection of the funding situation we find ourselves in. However, it is also a reflection upon the importance or value placed on some subjects (over others) at this time. We know that there is push towards STEM. That’s right and necessary but it isn’t an either or. Differing ‘intents’ can be held simultaneously. That should be an absolute in the state sector; as it’s certainly what’s offered in the private sector.

In the wider arts, beyond schools and college, there is less importance, possibly less value, placed upon arts; such as dance, fine art, theatre, opera, the list goes on. The creative arts and creative industries have seen something about decline, which correlates to the rise of emphasis on STEM pathways.

I’ve got absolutely no doubts that this has been exacerbated by the pandemic. During that period productions, exhibitions, shows and so on had to, by law, cease. And I think that it’s been difficult to reignite some of those artistic fires; the finances aren’t there, the production companies have closed, the ‘punters’ are staying at home.

There are some that argue that artic endeavour is the ultimate freedom of expression, and engenders in us, at an individual, community societal level, a willingness to challenge the status quo. I would say that I broadly concur. Arts are essential, not only to the individual, but to society is a whole.  We could discuss the commercial value of art, and there is some commercial value in art, but it is the sense of creativity and the freedom of expression that comes with the consumption of the arts which is of significant importance. If I was going to look into the foreseeable future I would argue that we need to allow for the development of our children and young people as critical thinkers; young adults who can challenge the accepted norms. The consumption of art, the production of art and the involvement in artistic endeavour will allow for the evolution of critical thinking in our children and young people.

We are committed, as a Trust, to ensure that artistic endeavour remains on the curriculum. We know that those subjects we offer are not for all, but they are for some. For me, this is a critical component of the balanced and fair curriculum we offer. There is something for everyone, whatever your background, your interests or your needs.

Over and above this, it is absolutely wonderful to be able to recognise the children and young people, supported by incredibly committed staff, who throw themselves into our artistic endeavours. And in particular at this time, those public performances which will bring so much joy to those performing and those consuming.

Whatever the artistic endeavour it is incredibly important that we feed and foster growth. Each artistic endeavour is like an endangered language, its survival is only secure when we have participation and consumption; and when it’s gone, it’s gone, never to return. A loss of the creative arts and performing arts will be a loss to all those who participate and even greater loss to the wider society, as a whole.

You will all find your ways in which you consume or support the arts but be reassured that we within our schools and college will do our bit through some serious curriculum intent.

‘If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him’. John F. Kennedy