Art is a shared cultural inheritance in which everyone has a right to participate, and Government should work to ensure that that is the case. But, on this Tory Government's watch, art is increasingly becoming seen as the preserve of the rich. Both the creation and the appreciation of art are perceived as exclusive luxuries.
Due to this Government's policies, the visual arts have an access problem, both as a classroom subject and as a career. Since 2009/10, there's been a 7.7% decrease in students studying Art and Design at A-Level. The number of Art and Design teachers fell by 9% between 2010 and 2015. Last year, the Art History A-Level course nearly disappeared completely. Due to this Government's narrow-minded notions of which subjects are most important, some students are not being offered the well-rounded education they need and deserve. Those who do pursue art as a career often face the challenges of working freelance, such as not being eligible for shared parental leave. At each stage, people without money to spare risk being squeezed out, but the Government treats art as a low priority.
There are barriers to enjoying art, too. After seven years of austerity, many art galleries are struggling for funds, and some like the New Art Gallery Walsall faced the threat of closure. In areas where art galleries are rarer to begin with, these difficulties have damaging consequences. The Government has its own art collection, most of which is displayed in Government buildings abroad. The Government Art Collection plays an important role projecting the soft power of the UK worldwide, but a third of the Collection is not even on display. Recent figures reveal that out of the Government Art Collection's over 13,500 pieces, only a paltry 32 have been shown in public museums or galleries in the UK over the past year.
Under this Government, fewer people have the opportunity to appreciate art in a gallery, create art in a classroom, or earning a living in a studio. The impact of Tory rule on arts and access does not paint a pretty picture.
Labour wants put creativity back at the heart of our communities and in classrooms in a way that is accessible to everyone. Our 2017 Labour Manifesto promised to take steps to widen the reach of the Government Art Collection and put an end the local authority cuts that have put so many galleries at risk. We will ensure a well-rounded curriculum where creativity is a priority, both in terms of the arts and in relation to problem solving and wellbeing.
Creativity is as essential to entrepreneurship and experiment design as it is to painting and pottery. We will roll out creative careers advice that will inform those aiming for futures in the arts, and we will support working artists by protecting Artist Re-sale Right and extending shared parental leave to freelancers.
Through art we come to better understand other people, other cultures, and ourselves. Art belongs to us all, and everyone should have opportunities to participate in our shared cultural inheritance and in creating our cultural future.