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The Arts are for Everyone

Thursday 11th December 2014 at 6pm 0 Comments

Leon Litvack recently joined the Arts Council as a board member and is a Reader in Victorian Studies at the School of English, Queens University Image: Leon Litvack recently joined the Arts Council as a board member and is a Reader in Victorian Studies at the School of English, Queens University

Arts Council Board Member Leon Litvack writes on the value of arts to society.

I’ve been wondering recently what ‘art’ means to people. For me it’s a process of deliberately arranging things in such a way that they appeal to, or challenge, our senses or emotions; these can be colours, objects, words, bodily actions, musical notes, and many other things besides. Some people have a natural, God-given talent or skill, which, when nurtured, produces pleasure or meaning for others. You can see how this applies to painters, sculptors, circus performers, actors, dancers, musicians, writers, and others who share their world view with those around them.

But art isn’t just for the gifted or the privileged; it’s for everyone, and it can contribute hugely to social, intellectual, and physical wellbeing. Think of the organisation which sends clown doctors to visit children in hospitals, to help them overcome fear of an operation; or the social street circus which takes kids with attention deficit disorder, and teaches them to juggle so as to improve their concentration and awareness of others. Then there’s the choir which gets people with physical and mental issues to sing together and give concerts; and the cross-community community theatre company which draws together vulnerable and marginalised older people as actors in a play, which enhances self-esteem. There’s also the group which brings creative arts into prisons, in an effort to improve personal relationships, and introduce skills which are essential to rehabilitation.

I haven’t even begun to talk about more conventional creative activities. But there’s clear, unquestioned evidence that art, in all its forms, makes a significant contribution to our lives. I’m sure you’ll recognise that there is a cost involved; but it’s not a lot: only thirteen pence per person per week. This money comes from the Northern Ireland Executive; yet in these difficult times, there are proposals to cut our funding of the arts – which is, incidentally, far less than the 32 pence per week spent in Wales.

We get a big return for our thirteen pence: the arts inspire the most deprived in our society; they enhance healthy interaction with others; they bring families closer together; they create jobs at a reasonable cost; and they make a major contribution to our economy. If you believe in the value of the arts, then speak up for them, and help to protect this treasure, which enhances our lives in ways you might not have imagined.

Leon Litvack is an Arts Council Board Member and Reader in Victorian Studies at the School of English, Queen's University

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