Sunday, 4 November 2012

The Twin Pillars of Society...are crumbling as we speak

Last November, I spent three days working in the National Gallery of Australia during the Art of Good Health and Wellbeing conference. Over my time there, I had the luxury of slipping out of the proceedings and into the galleries themselves and soaking up Australia’s rich history and visual culture. It was a treat to spend time with people who new elements of the collection and my particular thanks go to Peter Naumann, the Head of Education + Public Programs, and Gallery Educator program co-coordinator Adriane Boag who helped me scratch the surface of my understanding of the vast collection of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander art in the collection. I knew I was ignorant to more or less all aspects of indigenous art, but alongside my complete lack of knowledge of 20th century and contemporary Australian art too, I was in for something of a revelation. It would be easy and trite to compare and contrast the development of visual art in Australia alongside what I knew of European art, but that was never going to be the case. The art that I was exposed to was about a different story, and perhaps again, one that I’m not equipped to tell. Yes there were stories of the human condition, but grounded in this vast and unforgiving landscape. So it was with a degree of excitement that I’ve noticed that The Royal Academy of Art’s big autumn/winter show next year (21 September - 8 December 2013), will be an extravaganza, a survey of 200 years of Australian art. The big names are being trumpeted, so expect Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, Margaret Preston, Rover Thomas and Tracey Moffatt to sit alongside the exquisite unknown work of indigenous craftspeople.

For me the artist Howard Arkley best illustrates that unique vision of suburban Melbourne life through its architecture. Sublime stuff.

With the thought of our visual heritage and culture, and the recent speech of our PM to the Conservative Party Conference in mind, it is with some horror that I see the place of the arts on the national curriculum, is falling almost completely of the agenda.

Cultural figureheads have this week begun an attack on the governments English baccalaureate, the Ebacc, the fear being that many state schools will marginailise arts subjects, if they don’t count significantly to the Ebacc. In other words pupils have to attain a GCSE grade C or higher in five subject areas; English, maths, two sciences, and either geography or history. Drama, music, art and design aren’t included! The Cultural Learning Alliance is calling for the Government to add a sixth pillar to the currently planned, 5 subject areas.

Are you shocked? You should be. Everything this arts and health agenda is about, is deeply embedded in education, emotional intelligence and the arts. Others will talk more eloquently than me about the contribution of the arts to our economy and civic society, but we mustn't underestimate the impact that will have on the next generation.

So let me remind you of the Prime Ministers speech and his thoughts on education.

“The transformation has been astonishing – and the methods have been Conservative. Smart uniforms, teachers in suits. Children taught physics, chemistry and biology, not soft options."

But Prime Minister, aren't science and the arts the twin pillars of society?

I’m also mindful of research that I quoted in A Brightly Coloured Bell Jar that explored some of the links between intelligence testing and creativity testing, summarising that enriched environments, notably the USA, had seen a constant generational rise in IQ scores, but a reverse trend in creativity scores since 1990. In their paper, The Creativity Crisis, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman take this theme further, but with an emphasis not on art classes per se, but on how thinking creatively across the curriculum is key to flourishing.

‘Creativity isn’t about freedom from concrete facts,’ they comment, ‘Rather, (it’s about) fact-finding and deep research (that) are vital stages in the creative process.’ The characteristics of successful creative schools is, ‘they alternate maximum divergent thinking with bouts of intense convergent thinking, through several stages… when applied to the everyday process of work or school, brain function improves.’

Grayson Perry shares his thoughts on this latest experiment in education. Click on his photograph for more.

“The idea that art will somehow look after itself – that society will breed untaught geniuses – is rubbish. We'll end up with a cultural sector even more skewed towards the privately educated. A bit like what has happened to politics.”

And like a voice of reason in this liminal world of arts, health, wellbeing and education; enter stage left, the Shadow Minister for Culture and the Arts, Dan Jarvis MP who attended the launch of the Sheffield Arts and Wellbeing Network, and judging by the transcript, spoke rather well about our agenda. Here’s a snippet. Click on the glass eyes below, for the full speech.

“Britain more than ever survives and prospers by the talent and health of its people. Investment in human capital: to allow people to innovate, to create, to think anew and be creative is fundamental to human development and unlocking potential. Plays, poetry, books, films, art, design and crafts can all support innovation, thinking, reflection, creativity and help inspire individuals. Through this process people develop; we come together; we see things differently; we understand where others come from; and when at our most vulnerable, arts and creativity helps us to heal and to cope – to live life even when we feel there is no hope. 

Although we are at a tipping point, we have much to build upon and Britain has previously developed different approaches towards improving population health.  As Shadow Culture Minister, I am seized by the role that Culture – the Arts, can play in the context of health and general well-being.”

Arts Council England announces details of its new structure, which comes into operation on 1 July 2013.

The changes come as a result of the Government's requirement - made as part of our settlement for 2011-15 - that we reduce our administrative costs, as applied to our grant in aid for the arts by the end of March 2015.
  • an overall reduction in staff numbers across the organisation of 21 per cent from 559.5 full time posts to 442 (117.5 posts)
  • four Executive Directors, reducing from eight, accountable for delivering the Arts Council's overall strategy, with the Chief Executive
  • leadership of artform and cultural policy expertise distributed geographically across the organisation - everyone will have a local and national focus
  • property costs will come down by 50 per cent through reductions in the size of offices
  • major offices will be located in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol, plus some smaller local offices to keep the Arts Council close to the arts and cultural sector, and to local government
  • five areas covering London, the South East, the South West, the Midlands and the North replace the Arts Council's current regions and areas
Call for abstracts for Arts in Health Conference
Deadline 21st December 2012
International conference June 24, 25, 26 2013

We welcome the submission of abstracts for: 
  • Oral Presentations
  • Poster Presentations
  • Participatory Workshop & Performance /Film
Our conference themes include:
  • Healthy and Creative Ageing
  • Global Health Inequalities and Culture
  • Culture and the Social Determinants of Wellbeing
We particularly welcome abstracts that provoke new ways of researching, conceptualising and creating and will encourage delegates to question assumptions and learn about different approaches to current issues and areas of practice, with a particular focus on:
  • Research
  • The latest research and new methodologies
  • The dissemination of international research and evaluation
  • Practice
  • Museums and Health
  • Arts in healthcare settings
  • Arts and health promotion/prevention
Further guidelines by clicking on the false teeth

Help a Heart Grants (UK)
The British Heart Foundation has announced that the next closing date for applications through its Help a Heart Grants programme is the 21st December 2012.  Through the programme community and voluntary groups are able to apply for funding of between £300 and £2,000 to promote heart health in their area. Anything that promotes heart health may be eligible for a Help a Heart Grant. The Foundation is particularly interested in original and creative ideas. Projects must be patient led. The more evidence of patient involvement and need applicants can provide, the stronger their application will be.
Read more at:  

The David & Elaine Potter Foundation 
(UK & International)
The David and Elaine Potter Foundation is a charitable family foundation established in 1999 to encourage a stronger, fairer civil society. It has granted more than £12 million to registered charities in the UK and abroad.  The Foundation's funding is divided into five categories:
  • Education
  • Civil society
  • Research
  • Human rights
  • Arts.
The trustees are interested in lasting social change, and in forming long-term partnerships with the organisations the Foundation supports.  Grants in the past have ranged from several hundred pounds to grants of up to £2 million. The grant application process is divided into two stages: a letter of enquiry and an application. An applicant is invited to submit a full proposal only if their letter of enquiry has been accepted. 

Applications can be submitted at any time. Read more at:

Wolfson Foundation Special Needs Grants Programme (UK)
The Wolfson Foundation has announced that its Special Needs Grants Programme is open for applications.  Through its Special Needs Programme, the Wolfson Foundation, makes grants to charities and special schools that work with people with particular health needs or disabilities.   Over the past three years some £7.5 million has been allocated to nearly 150 different projects.  Grants are made for new buildings, major refurbishment work, equipment or vehicles.

There is a two stage application process.  Initially an outline of the project should be submitted.  Successful applicants at this stage will be invited to submit a full proposal.  Stage 1 applications can be submitted at any time.  The next closing date for Stage 2 applications is the 1st March 2013. Read more at:

Just to say, our thoughts are with you as you head into Presidential elections and following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy on the Eastern seaboard, our thoughts are with the invisible people of Cuba and Haiti too...

Thank you as ever for reading this blog, and feel free to share...C.P.

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