Contact Channel Magazine
The Value of Art in the Community banner


The Value of Art in the Community

"I see little of more importance to the future of our country and of civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his/her vision wherever it takes him/her."  - John F. Kennedy

Many artists and arts providers reading that quote by JFK are probably wishing that full recognition and freedom to pursue artistic vision were indeed possible without having to also accept a hand –to-mouth existence.

In the current economic climate, created in no small part by decades of adherence to the free-market economic model, the artist finds fewer opportunities to make an adequate living, arts voices increasingly marginalised and arts providers underfunded. Is this fair? Should everyone in a society be expected to only follow a vocational course that results in relentless economic growth? Should every participatory activity in a community be valued in monetary terms?
When he mentions that the purpose of ‘art is to nourish the roots of our culture,’ JFK references Ancient Greek Classicism and the philosophical foundations of western civilisation. How does the 21st century society measure the value of art in this role as the compost of healthy communities? In some quarters it doesn’t.
From the business sector and employers we hear requests for graduates ready to hit the ground running, tailor-made for various roles in organisations large and small and that arts graduates are less valued as potential candidates.
From some in the business sector it seems that art may only be valued if it can be traced to providing an upwardly mobile fiscal result. This indicates a lack of understanding of how innovative and critical thinking, brought to the table by an arts education and arts participation can be utilised in the business environment. It’s also indicative of the long developing trend to do-away with in-house training programmes for employees. Why spend time and money training an arts graduate to fit our business needs when we can demand that tertiary education providers churn out ready-mades? (pun re: Marcel Duchamp’s ground-breaking sculptures intended).
The late John Gardner, prominent American scholar and author, argued that leaders from all segments of society must accept a larger mission and “recognise that one of the great functions of leaders is to help a society to achieve the best that is in it”. Community and civic leaders alike need to recognise the powerful link between arts and cultural participation and the quality of life within their communities.*

So, what is the role of arts organisations like The PumpHouse in this context?  American art historian and arts blogger Philippa Pitts, “The role of arts organizations in civil society is constantly evolving. However, in order to be significant in today’s world, arts organizations need to invite their communities to think about the arts and their relevance to social issues in a broader, more global perspective. In this way, arts organizations can both bolster the importance of the arts and assert their own relevance in society”
Our remit is to encourage participation in the arts at the local community level. It is at this accessible level that JFK’s ‘roots of culture’ sprouts. Without suitable levels of nourishment we wouldn’t be able to give artists freedom to drive the culture forward, to innovate and contribute to community development. If an artspace like The PumpHouse is to continue to encourage its community to engage in, participate of and think about the relevance of art then it needs to be valued by all sectors of the community and funded in a meaningful way that allows this to happen.

Eco-Fest 2014 – Melissa Gunn talks Bees at Friday Forum
"Christopher Robin!" he said in a loud whisper.
 "I think the bees suspect something!"
 "What sort of thing?"
 "I don't know.  But something tells me that they're suspicious!"
 "Perhaps they think that you're after their honey."
 "It may be that.  You never can tell with bees."***
This year’s Eco-Fest will be acknowledged by The PumpHouse with a special Friday Forum talk about beekeeping by Melissa Gunn from the Kaipatiki Project. A member of Auckland Bee-Keeping Club, she keeps 5 hives in 3 apiaries and wins prizes for her honey, thanks to her bees’ good taste in flowers. Come and hear Melissa share her knowledge of bees. It might inspire some keen gardeners to install a suburban hive. March 21st at 5pm – only $5.

*The Wallace Foundation Survey_’Building Participation: New Findings From The Field’
** – Field notes, Observations and Insights: National Arts Strategy.-What is the role of arts organizations in society & their place in the community? by Philippa Pitts
*** Winnie the Pooh, Part 1: In Which We Are Introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and Some Bees - A.A.Milne

What's On this March!

Sunday March 16th
The Auckland Multicultural Festival

In The PumpHouse Amphitheatre
1pm – 5pm
Free entry

Friday March 21st
Friday Forum
Guest Speaker Melissa Gunn on Bees

In the French Rendez-vous Cafe
April 14 – May 3
Tim Bray Productions presents
The Owl and the Pussycat
By Edward Lear
Various session times.

May 7  - 17
Tadpole Productions presents
Absent Friends

By Alan Ayckbourn
Tues –Sat 7.30pm  Sun 4pm
Friday June 13 – One night only
Soul Food - An Evening with Psychic Medium
Kelvin Cruickshank

by Channel Editorial