Through the turbulence of the past year, have you drawn inspiration and hope from art and culture?
Published date: 18 May 2021
Chances are that you will have enjoyed some quiet moments of reflection looking at paintings on your walls, drawing, listening to music, watching films or at least one of the other myriad artistic and cultural activities you might engage in to lift your spirits, stimulate your mind or connect with others.
As galleries, museums, cinemas, concert halls and theatres have had to shut their physical doors, we have been inspired to see how so many organisations and individual artists have responded in imaginative ways by taking their work beyond buildings and out in communities or into the virtual online space to ensure access for all at a difficult time.
We feel passionately that the arts have supported the economy and wellbeing of the country throughout this pandemic and should continue to be an essential part in all of our lives. Arts and culture influence our everyday lives in so many positive ways, yet as a sector have been amongst the first to be shut down and will be amongst the last to go back to normal. Although many theatres and galleries are now legally allowed to reopen this week, the social distancing requirements and insurance limitations mean that it may not be financially viable for many, so the economic fallout of the lockdowns will continue to be felt for some time to come.
However, in spite of the huge contribution the creative industries make, pre- Covid the arts and culture industry contributed £10.8billion a year to the UK economy, sadly it is not always appreciated as it should be. We have been devastated to hear the news this week about a proposed 50% cut to funding of arts subjects in higher education and more locally to us here in Kent, the announcement that the University for the Creative Arts is planning to close its campus in Rochester. If, like us, you are concerned about the damage this would cause to the next generation of students wishing to train as artists and creative practitioners, we encourage you to read more about the campaign and sign the petition to reverse the plan.
While these stories have been a cause for concern, we have also been celebrating this year’s Turner Prize shortlist which, for the first time ever features a line-up comprised entirely of collectives (rather than individual artists) doing socially engaged work beyond traditional gallery spaces. We feel heartened to see how the trials and tribulations of the past year have prompted a shift in ‘establishment’ thinking about what excellence in artistic practice really means. Though collaborative, socially engaged work is standard for us here at FrancisKnight – it may seem more ground-breaking for others – nonetheless, it is encouraging to see that others may finally be coming round to ways in which it can be made more relevant to the lives of ‘ordinary people’.
Meanwhile, back at FrancisKnight, as the Spring weather improves and more Covid restrictions are lifted, many of our projects are continuing to build momentum, and other major new initiatives are getting the green light to proceed (exciting news coming soon!).