Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Are you interested in art?

Recently I was at an event where there was a stall for the Arts Council. I was standing at the stall when a woman came along and one of the people at the stall asked, ‘Are you interested in art?’ There was a pause and then the lady, whom I could describe as ‘middle-aged’ and ‘middle Ulster’ said, ‘Not really.’ I left at that point but it set me thinking about how people in Ulster view ‘art’. 

I am sure that if she had been pressed on the matter there could have been an interesting conversation about perceptions of art but there is a challenge here for the arts sector and the arts establishment. Why is it that so many people do not see ‘art’ as interesting or relevant?

There is much discussion about funding for the arts, both from the public sector and the private sector, but there is another source of income and that is from those who attend arts events. If we can increase the income from this source, by attracting more people to the events, there will be more money going into the arts.

This brings me back to the question about how people in Ulster view ‘art’. It is not just an interesting topic for discussion, it is a question that has to be asked and answered by those seeking to increase their audiences and generate more income.  Answers please .....


  1. If I'm being truthful, I'm not hugely interested in Art; especially abstract or "modern" art.

    Obviously there are exceptions and "beauty is in the eye of the beholder"; though is there really much beauty in modern art? Surely there's no comparison between a Turner, constable or Gainsborough - and any specimen of Abstract "Art"?

  2. 'Answers please', come on Nelson? You of all people, from your years of involvement in the arts and culture and now as minister, have been given the answers time and time again. You just don't like the answers you've been given.

    When we've had more time to digest the CAL report, and when it is no longer embargoed, I'll blog again. But let me tell you now, you won't like the answers then either!

  3. Nelson - still compiling my 'answers' but in the meantime I came across this programme on BBC iPlayer, 'Why beauty matters' http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00p6tsd/Why_Beauty_Matters/ . It is presented by the philosopher Roger Scruton and discusses how beauty in art is a value on a power with truth and goodness. It's a fascinating and powerful programme, and while I wouldn't agree with absolutely everything he says it is a profound expression of why art is important. I urge you to make time to watch it - although, I warn you, you may feel the need to increase the arts budget as a result.


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