Part of the Emerge Leeds Festival 2011
With the current economic crisis and widespread cuts in public spending budgets, things are even more financially precarious for the arts than usual; and many have been forced to reappraise how they argue the case for funding.
The Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) is investigating techniques to assess the economic value of the arts — what it terms non-market goods — in terms of what people feel they would be willing to pay if they were not free.
The February 2011 Royal Society for the Arts (RSA) pamphlet, Arts Funding, Austerity and the Big Society: Remaking the case for the arts, states:
“The Commission on 2020 Public Services at the RSA has called for more public investment to be evaluated in terms of a ‘social productivity test’: whether it builds individual and community engagement, resilience and reciprocity.”
The pamphlet attempts a bold response to the challenge presented by the funding cuts, but is there something wanting in the solutions offered?
This discussion aims to challenge the participation approach of chasing audiences, in favour of more compelling reasons why the arts should receive public funding, and ask some difficult questions such as: how should we value the arts? Are the arts a luxury or a necessity? Do they have intrinsic value or are they best assessed in terms of outcome and impact? Does what the public think they want or like matter or should we fund the arts regardless? Do the arts even need or deserve public funding at all?