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17th April 2013 Sara Lock

Access to contemporary visual art

By: Robert Hewison, John Holden


Free access to museums hugely increased visitor figures but there are still correlations between socio-economic status and the likelihood of attendance at arts and cultural events and while numbers of visitors increased, their profile remained relatively static.

This paper argues that school education ignores visual literacy and points out that the government’s description of creative industries omits painting, sculpture or other forms of individual visual creation. It discusses new ways of measuring impact of visual art that concentrate on the individual rather than group response and discusses public value of art.

in the delivery of the curriculum itself, there is little concentration on the issue of visual literacy – the ability, the language and the critical tools to assess and interact with the visual environment. Visual literacy ranges well beyond matters of art into design, architecture, planning, publishing,film, fashion and so on, but in spite of the fact that it directly affects every citizen, it is a subject that is rarely discussed in educational or political circles.

To begin to find a new language, we must look at how the world around us is changing, and seek to place the right to art within a new framework that recognises that art occupies a space where value is created and not delivered. As society becomes more diverse, personal aspirations are changing, and the consequence is that people increasingly want forms of connection with the arts that reflect their own outlook and circumstances. The right to art may be universal, but its universality must now take many forms to meet many individual needs. Our new language of talking about art in the public realm, and the means by which we measure and value it, must recognise the increasing need to personalise the debate.

If the concept of public value is embraced it will provide an opportunity to turn a right to art from an aspiration into a reality. True implementation of the right to art will produce a more vibrant visual culture, a visually literate citizenry, and ensure a genuinely creative future.

| Published:2013

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