Earlier today, I read an article that highlighted some of Donald Trump’s new policies, including privatising public broadcasting and totally defunding two federal arts and humanities agencies.
Now I’m not American, so this doesn’t affect me directly, but it still sends a shiver down my spine.
I’ve worked in the arts industry in the UK and experienced first-hand the results of cutbacks to arts and culture funding under the Conservatives.
A venue I worked in for several years closed completely, while others have had to reduce the number of people they employ or the projects they support as budgets dwindled.
Over the last few years the sense of panic that came along with the initial days of austerity seems to have worn off, but with Brexit on the horizon there is a question mark over how things will work without EU funding. It’s hard to imagine the government putting the same level of support back into an industry many see as non-essential.
There are many people who don’t care about the arts. I guess Donald Trump is one of them.
Culture is an easy target when budget cuts become necessary, especially when compared to vital things like education, healthcare, policing and so on.
But the arts are important for everyone, including those people who are difficult to engage. The arts allow us a way to question the status quo, to share ideas and opinions. They enrich people’s lives. Money spent on arts and cultural activities for children can often offset costs that might occur later on in life, such as those linked to justice, mental health and education.
Culture gives us a chance to learn about history and the world around us. It provides a voice to people who might not otherwise have one.
It provides entertainment but it also does so much more. It allows us to dream, to see things outside our own realm of experience. The arts can teach us how to think independently, how to cultivate an opinion.
They can provide a deeper meaning to our daily lives.
Of course the arts shouldn’t be funded at the expense of maternity care or treatments for cancer, but they shouldn’t be treated as expendable.
Without access to the arts, many people will become poorer than they realise.