Art for Art's Sake
The growth of learning and participation work within cultural organisations has been built partly on its ability to serve a wide range of educational, social and health agendas. I’m very happy that the arts are able to play such a broad role. The old “instrinsic versus instrumental” debates are wearisome and pretty pointless. If you derive something positive and valuable from your engagement with art, do you care whether it was intrinsic or instrumental?
That having been said, I do frequently feel that the art can get a bit lost in arts education, that educational and social aims can over-dominate. Perhaps the fact that they’re the ones that often attract funding has made us reluctant to be bolder about artistic goals. Even the Arts Council seemed to go through a period of not mentioning the art much in setting out policy and priorities for learning, though happily that’s changed in more recent times.
There are signs that the pendulum’s swinging back to the art. Even politicians are talking about “art for art’s sake”, as they seek to reassure the arts sector that we’ll be in safe hands if they’re in Government.
“Learning how to create and enjoy art for art’s sake, if you will. I believe this is a vital part of growing into a happy, functional citizen in adult life.”
That’s Shadow Culture Minister Ed Vaizey in a speech last week.
I hope he’ll be talking to colleagues about the importance every child learning how to create and enjoy art for art’s sake; and the importance therefore of enabling and encouraging schools to make it a reality.
Challenging the age-old subject hierarchy, in which the arts are considered less important than subjects like maths and science, would be an ideal start. Ed may have his work cut out though. A fellow Shadow Minister for Children, Schools and Families talked last August about standards being lowered by the invasion of “soft” subjects, picking out dance for a special mention. There could be some interesting conversations ahead.