In last week's inaugural lecture as chair of the RSA, Vikki Heywood called on the arts to take on a deeper, broader, more ambitious engagement with society. Building on Matthew Taylor's ideas around place-based commissioning, Vikki proposed a fundamental shift to the arts' relationship to society.
Interestingly, Vikki took cultural organisations' recent shifts in their relationship with education as an inspiration for how things could change. To help move our thinking forward, I'd encourage people to read the section below from Vikki's speech, and answer these questions:
1) Do you agree with this analysis of how cultural organisations' overall attitudes to education have changed over the last thirty years?
2) If so, what do you think caused this shift?
3) If not, where and why has this not happened?
If you have too much to say for a meager comment box below, email me and we might be able to sort you out with a guest blog.
"So how do we make it happen – well we have done it before. Art practice has changed - it can change again.
'We know that such a change of orientation and ambition can be achieved. Over the last thirty years our larger cultural organisations have moved from basic audience development (bums on seats) – to far more sophisticated forms of audience engagement and participation – especially through their education programmes. Many smaller organisations led the way built, as many of them were, on principles around socially engaged practice.
'If the ghost of first NT director Laurence Olivier visited the National Theatre today, his biggest surprise might not be the levels of technology involved in current productions, or even the incredible NT Live.
'It would probably be the shock of an education department that employs twenty people and many more freelancers, is nationally broad and locally deep, with its own programme to nurture young talent. A commitment of this scale would thirty years ago have been unthinkable, unrealistic, and frankly undesired.
It’s now time for a shift that is just as fundamental to the arts and its relationship to society."
Vikki also mentioned our emerging project to develop "a GCSE in the Arts in order to develop young people’s cultural knowledge and practice across at least two art forms. It takes Michael Gove’s passion for ‘cultural literacy’ as necessary but not sufficient to develop young people’s cultural identities and capacities to the full." Thoughts how we approach this idea, possibly connected to my latest TES article on how schools need to occupy their curriculum. would also be really welcomed.
Joe Hallgarten, Director of Education @joehallg