How can we make the arts less elitist?
Museums Association
Sorcha Carey, director, Edinburgh Art Festival

“We need to find ways to share more and more widely – to bring art out of conventional spaces and into our daily vocabulary.

We at Edinburgh Art Festival have been commissioning artists to make works for public sites in Edinburgh for a number of years now and, crucially, we find that this in turn brings new audiences back into galleries.

It’s also critical to introduce young people to the spaces –and to the language of art – from a very young age. This will help to foster a sense of ownership and confidence that will remain for life.”

Ellen McAdam, director,Birmingham Museums Trust

“How about…

  • Communities voting on regional arts spending.
  • Learning mainstream arts from nursery onwards.
  • Making ballet an Olympic sport.
  • Putting a Strictly Arts Talent show on prime-time TV.
  • Creating arts apprenticeships and an Artpower Services Commission.
  • Providing free music lessons for the unemployed.
  • Poets composing the news.
  • Playing opera at half-time in Premier League footie matches.
  • Making bankers’ bonuses conditional on literary ability.
  • Cloning Grayson Perry?”

Ernst Vegelin, head, Courtauld Gallery, London

“In 1943, Samuel Courtauld asserted: ‘Art is not reserved for the wealthy, the idle and the learned.’ Elitism is a condition of limited opportunity and educational institutions have a vital role in training the arts leaders of the future, irrespective of background.

Elitism is reinforced by undervaluing art as not essential for all. We must empower, especially in our schools, an understanding of art as a vital part of human experience. Art world elitism is less likely in a society where art and creative expression are claimed as inherent and universal.”

Sharon Heal, director, Museums Association

“We could make the arts less elitist by opening up entry routes into the sector and diversifying the workforce. Creative Apprenticeships are one good way to do this. Museums Galleries Scotland’s Heritage Horizons Traineeship Programme, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is a good example of a practical measure to diversify the workforce and audiences.

Having a workforce that reflects the rich diversity of local communities would help museums open up to those groups that don’t normally visit: if you see yourself there, you are more likely to come.”

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