Writing for Guardian‘s Comment is Free today, John Tusa offers his view on what makes a wise art policy.
As the Arts Council England announces which organisations it will be backing this year, it does so with an ever diminishing pot – but it doesn’t have to be this way, and to think that it does is a lie and a diversion. So argues John Tusa – author of Pain in the Arts – in today’s Comment is Free, suggesting that a sensible arts policy is available to the government, and it needn’t be so obsessed by what is such a minimal part of the national budget.
Governments and ministers must widen their horizons and understanding of what the arts are. Too much focus is concentrated on a handful of prejudices around the major London institutions – the Royal Opera, British Museum, National Gallery and others – routinely castigated for being too rich, too expensive, too elite, too exclusive in their audiences. A priority for ministers must be to cast their understanding of the arts far more widely across the nation while giving up indulgence in cheap hits at the organisations on their Westminster doorstep.
These changes of approach and attitude aren’t costly and should be easy. The notion of ‘trust’ in the arts underpins them and would benefit everyone. On this foundation, two policy changes can follow. First, ministers should admit and welcome that the ‘English’ funding model based on the tripod of funding from box office, donors and the public purse is accountable, efficient and democratic. They must stop flirting with the myth that the ‘American’ model of funding is in any way superior for the arts or society.
Second, ministers should ringfence the arts budget. If it is right for overseas aid, it is surely right for the arts at home. This is not just being ‘nice’ to the ‘luvvies’. It would be to recognise and understand that the arts at their widest benefit people, places, ideas, curiosity and wellbeing. Nitpicking around the edges of a tiny budget is not an arts policy. It is bad politics too.
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