The election has been announced. In what follows, we list four areas to focus on during and after the election campaign.
During covid-19 we experienced the value of culture and arts in a new and very immediate manner. It is often when you are barred from access to something, that you grasp the true value of it. We now understand that culture and arts is not “nice-to-have” but fundamental to the wellbeing of our society. A society without space for reflection or for coming together across divides is a society poorly equipped to meet future challenges. We need cultural policies and conversation that work to not only close the gaps created by covid-19, but ensure that when new crises hit, we will have a more equitable and strong foundation for our cultural sector.
It is not customary to talk of the field of visual art as an ecosystem, but we will need a more holistic and encompassing perspective, if we are to meet the next crises with a stronger and more supportive cultural sector. This will require a new class of supportive institutions, as fx. The Analytical Institute for The Cultural Sector and the recently announced Centre for Sustainability for The Cultural Sector. We welcome these initiatives as an example of how we are indeed capable of taking more collective responsibility, but there is much more to be done. Currently 17% of working artists are living under the poverty line and a majority have a median income far below the general population. In a time of inflation and energy crisis, artists need more and better social, economic, and political support – not less. In UKK we suggest a nation-wide analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the ecosystem we have. This would provide a new and informed baseline to discuss future developments and work to be done towards a better and more equitable cultural sector.
The cultural sector will be central to the transition towards a sustainable and regenerative society. The arrival of a new, more sustainable society is also the arrival of new narratives, images, and ideas that will populate it. Firstly, art should be included into cross-sectoral partnerships, whether we are talking urban development, science and technology, or storytelling and communication efforts. Secondly, we need plans for how to transition the cultural sector itself. The field of visual arts accounts for travel activity, transport and storage of works of art, poor labour conditions, extractive resource use, and art as an instrument for financialization of economies. We need to show that we have the courage and will to act on this now.
The current housing crisis is a severe challenge for low-income individuals across all of society. In addition to housing, artists also need access to studio facilities. These tough conditions force many artists to move against their will, in search of more affordable housing and workspace elsewhere. If we want a society with a diverse and thriving cultural sector (and population!), we need more affordable housing and improved access to better working facilities, particularly in urban areas. See our work on this topic.
The cultural sphere needs to expand our notion of access, beyond physically accessing art and cultural spaces. It should include a focus on enabling art workers with disabilities to have greater freedom and choice over career directions. This will require a revision to the current guidelines for access both from The Ministry of Culture and The Ministry of Employment. Research done by joint EU and UK commissions, in the Time to Act report, have demonstrated that the cultural sector is not equipped to accommodate art workers and audiences with disabilities, and have suggested structural changes to rectify this. We hope all representatives of culture will keep this in mind when discussing art and accessibility, and will work towards a more accessible and inclusive art world. See our work on this topic.
We hope our future government will acknowledge the need for a more diverse, sustainable, and equitable cultural sector.