Arts Infrastructure? Give it a rest!

People ask me, what are The MightyCreatives then? And what’s an Arts Council Bridge Organisation when it’s at home? And what does being an arts infrastructure organisation actually mean? And why don’t you just give the money directly to the organisations that are actually delivering the arts? And cut out the middle men? I used to ask the same question myself a lot.

But now I get it – and it’s very simple. An arts infrastructure organisation builds infrastructure much like architects and civil engineers build roads, railways, water supplies and the national grid.

Without civil infrastructure, people would never have travelled, economies would have stalled, cities would never have grown and public health would have been an impossible day dream.

Civic infrastructure is not a particularly sexy subject and although there is some romance to roads, railways and wind turbines, we generally don’t enthuse about how wonderful infrastructure can be – until it goes missing.

Arts infrastructure has similar functions: it gives young people the chance to learn and progress; it provides opportunities for people to experience cultural richness on a scale that would have been impossible if the only resources they had access to was an out of tune upright piano in the parlour. Without artistic infrastructure, civic health and well being would be unimaginable.

We’d soon know the importance of arts infrastructure if it disappeared overnight. Auditoria would be empty; libraries a thing of the past and you’d only be able to remember 3 tunes on your upright piano which you’d play over and over again. You’d go mad, and you’d take everyone with you.

So, a lack of arts infrastructure means no audiences in theatres, library closure and artists consigned to talk to themselves for ever and a day, trapped in the basement of their own imaginations: but what type of arts infrastructure is it that we need?

The ‘just in time’ type exemplified in Wallace and Gromit’s train chase in The Wrong Trousers where Gromit has nano-seconds to lay down the track in front of him?

Or a 50 year plan which is built on the Big Data of today? But which might fall apart after the next election when experts are finally shown the door by No. 10 Downing Street and we’re left with the ‘I know what I like and I like what I know’ approach to building the nation’s cultural railways?

Whatever it turns out to be, we can be pretty sure that doing more of the same isn’t going to address the inequalities which are rife in the arts. Perhaps it’s not so much of needing Gromit to build our infrastructure, but the equivalent of a hyper loop travel system which can connect young people to artists to platforms and venues and audiences directly, immediately and without any of the paraphernalia that chasing a penguin with a colander on your head entails.

That’s what organisations like The Mighty Creatives do. We help fill your theatres, open doors to knowledge and experience and stop you driving yourself bonkers with inept renditions of Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag.

It’s not a sexy job but someone has to be the cultural architects, planners and engineers of the future. That’s a pretty romantic thing to aspire to.

Author: drnicko

Awarded an MBE for services to arts-based businesses, I am passionate about generating inspiring, socially engaging, creative practice within educational contexts both nationally and internationally.

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