The Civilising Role of Arts and Culture

Hannah Kiely, CEO, HC Financial Advisers

If you have passed through Heathrow Terminal 2 you will see “Slipstream”, the sculpture by the artist Richard Wilson which twists and turns in simulation of a small airplane as it moves through space performing a series of acrobatic manoeuvres.  The engineers point out that the sculpture harkens back to earlier artistic studies in motion, such as those by photographer Edward Muybridge in the late 19th century.   It is not the economic benefit of tourists and Britain’s creative image that makes this special, but the fact that it is exciting, and redolent of past flying achievements and of manufacturing expertise.  And isn’t this one of the reason why public and private investments in the arts is done for the inherent value of culture: life enhancing, entertaining, and defining of our personal and national identities.

Investment from governments, philanthropists, charities and companies is critical to the Arts, and begins with the inherent understanding of the value of culture, and continues with the social and educational benefits, and ends ultimately only with the economic benefit.  Some take a cynical view of this but Oscar Wilde once wrote on defining a cynic, as someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

If we continue to strip away at funding for the Arts, we are attacking the very fabric of what is pleasurable and good in life.  If we continue to do this, we will be removing the music from our schools, the books from our libraries, the fun from our festivals, the dance and play from our theatres, painting, reading, writing and so on.  And what will we be left with?

Yes I can hear the calls for funding for our health service, funding for our educational structure, funding, funding, funding.  But look at how they complement each other, the benefit of Art in the corridors of hospitals, music in the classroom, school musicals, plays, music for the benefit of people with mental health issues and more.

There is a strong link made regarding the benefit of building a well-funded relationship between Arts and culture and education.  Look at literacy programmes, young people involved in writing workshops, drama, dance and so on.  It is believed that children who take part in music perform better at maths.

Fintan O’Toole wrote last week of the call for a national Arts Strike.  We shall see if this comes to pass.  However, what he highlighted as the prolonged attack on art and culture institutions regarding funding since 2008, and the impact it has had will be felt for many years.  He wrote that “most national cultural institutions have taken cuts of around 40 per cent to their annual budgets, leaving some of them on the brink of collapse. Under the current Government, funding for arts, culture and film has fallen from €92.3 million in 2011 to €75.9 million in 2014. These cuts are worse than the general effects of so-called austerity. Even within the Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (DAHG), Arts funding has been hit harder than any other sector. “   And it seems that the only increase in funding for 2015 is for the centenary commemorations.  What a lot of pressure on this additional €4m set aside for this purpose to those commissioned to deliver.

Sponsorship has been of enormous value to cultural and arts organisations and has most likely allowed for the survival of many of these wonderful events and activities, many of which would be well gone only for such sponsorship.  But as a society, it is not the role of Corporates alone, to fund these, but the role of a good government.

So should we be looking at a path to privatisation of the arts in the face of badly or non-existent public funding?  Or should we examine other countries where good funding takes place.  One such place is in India, where the government takes its responsibility of funding arts rather seriously. One reason is that there is very little private support for theatre, museums, dance and performing artists.

In Italy, a country which claims to have the highest density of art and cultural treasures in Europe, if not the world, the Italian government spends very little on maintaining its cultural patrimony.  Arts funding in America is, like so many other aspects of administration, a matter of both state and federal money.

Here in Galway, with the awarding of UNESCO City of Film and the bid for the Culture Capita 2020, it is more important than ever, now that someone cuts the stiches on the purse and releases the required funding for these two serious and worthwhile events to be completed, and to ensure the infrastructure is there in time.

To finish in the words of our friend, Oscar Wile “The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible!”

HC Financial Advisers…………….we advise





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