Many years ago the Labout Party had the bright idea of engaging artists, celebrities and other media types to support the campaign efforts of the party. Entitled, Arts for Labour, the programme involved wheeling out celebrities and artists at key moments during the 1987 campaign. In hindsight (always a best friend, Mr. Hindsight), this may not have been a particularly effective use of many peoples time and energy – but one thing it did do was getting artists asking of the Labour Party, how about a Labour for the Arts parallel campaign? Or, What did the Labour Party ever do for the Arts?
This fell on deaf ears at the time but these days, what with schools engaging artists for their purposes in a kind of Artists for Schools campaign, one might be tempted to ask, what about Schools for Artists? Or, what did schools ever do for artists apart from pay them modest remuneration for a role which is frequently confused, disconnected and unstrategic?
Here are 5 things schools could do for artists if they had the health of the arts sector at heart:
1. Commission new plays from new, local playwrights rather than repeating yet another version of Willy Russell’s Our Day Out.
2. Install an artist in residence for a term with a brief to capture the ‘essence’ of the school which is not just flattering and designed for best possible impact in PR terms, but is critical and capable of shaking up a few well held preconceptions
3. Develop choral sinigng which doesn’t rely on the output of Howard Goodall. Engage different composers, lyricists, Musical Directors who can push the boundaries of what is acceptable choral singing in schools.
4. Engage visual artists with the science teachers and challenge their visual representations of the world with new, unorthodox visions of how, for example, the workings of the human body might be represented.
5. Appreciate that the arts gives you new knowledge of the world – not just different perceptions of existing knowledge – and build that knowledge into the curriculum.