There seems to be a belief that science and technology will save our economy while art is an expensive luxury. This is a mistake, says TLC managing director Jonathan Milne.
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Once upon a time I decided to go to university and study art rather than science. My parents thought this was OK. At least they never did anything indicating that it was a bad idea. Today the government is arguing that art is a soft option and it has increased funding for science education. There seems to be a belief that science and technology will save our economy while art is an expensive luxury. This is a mistake.
Artists are driven by art. We make art because we love making art. The only point in having money is to cover the basics and enable us to continue making art. From the government’s point of view this is not an economic policy which is going to balance the books.
The challenge is to demonstrate to the government that the arts are enormously important and many of the fundamental aspects of art and science are the same.
Here are two tactics to change the game (and if you’re an artist they might help change your own economy).
1. It isn’t hard to be an entrepreneur. The government is excited by entrepreneurs like Peter Jackson who have used art to create jobs, put New Zealand on the world stage and bring some dollars into the treasury. You don’t have to do something on the scale of the Hobbit. What you have to do is to figure out how you can make your art relevant to more people.
2. Creativity in science is the same as creativity in art. Scientists who have won Nobel prizes are about twenty times more likely to be deeply involved in the arts than non-scientists.
What if we nudged education to look at the art/science connection in a new way?
TLC deals with the first point through a class called ‘Thinking for a Change’ (TFAC for short). TFAC invites students to consider what really lights them up. Many students have been conditioned to ignore their dreams because we live in a world where dreams, like art, are often seen as a luxury. So we don’t talk of dreams, we talk of goals.
Once you find your goal the next thing is to figure out how to move towards it. And the next thing is to figure out how to continue moving closer towards it. The principle is simple although it can feel terribly complex because everything is happening at once (bills, babies, partners, customers, worries, calamities, life).
While moving towards your goal it’s important to discover how to be relevant. Money is one of the indicators of relevance. I look upon money as part of the art rather than an end in itself. Unfortunately the arts (and artists) aren’t always good with money. To the extent that we have followed a begging bowl strategy (hand-outs, grants and so on), we have marginalised ourselves. It’s time to get the money right without compromising the art.
Education is a big story. Teachers are trained in ‘subjects’ that are kept in tight compartments. Science and the arts are segregated in schools although they sometimes get back together in adventures like ‘The Hobbit’. My suggestion is to link the creative processes of the arts and sciences throughout the school system. The outcome will be a boost to both science and art. It will make a bigger and cheaper difference than any other aspect of education funding.
For a slightly lateral backgrounder, check out Beau Lotto here. Maybe every time he mentions ‘science’ you can substitute ‘art’. Have fun.
- Written by Jonathan Milne, The Learning Connexion School of Art and Creativity's Managing Director.