22 April 2014back

Creative Internships Blog Week 25

Johanna Shepherd, Wales Millennium Centre

As councils across Wales are closing arts centres or slashing their funding, and cuts passed on to the Arts Council of Wales take funding levels back to their lowest since 2009, now is an interesting time to be in fundraising. This challenging funding landscape is why the Creative Internships programme came into being. 

Since my last blog post, I’ve had the opportunity to write two funding applications from start to finish, one to a private foundation and one to a statutory source. For the second, I found Baroness Kay Andrews’ recent report to the Welsh Government on culture and poverty particularly helpful, and encouraging. In the foreword, she writes, “By identifying access to and participation in the arts, culture and heritage as an aspect of social justice itself and a powerful weapon against poverty, in all its manifest forms, the Welsh government has made it clear that it understands the role played by culture in making us the sort of people we are and the people we want to be.” The report, Culture and Poverty: Harnessing the power of the arts, culture and heritage to promote social justice in Wales, can be downloaded from the Welsh Government’s web site. 

On the same site you can also find Professor Dai Smith’s report on the Arts in Education, which serves as an introduction to the research on the role of the arts in raising academic achievement levels of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. A body of evidence exists both for and against the stronger claims of the arts in education, but to anyone working in an arts organisation, it’s clear that engagement with the arts really can - and does - transform lives. 

It might sometimes be difficult to measure, but art and culture have a unique role in raising aspirations and broadening horizons.  To give an example from my own family, my father’s mother was the daughter of immigrants, one of 14 children, and she grew up in a blue collar community. I am certain that her natural love of the arts – music and opera especially – was a factor in her own children going on to careers in medicine, law, and teaching art. I never knew my grandmother, but her legacy lives on, in part, in me. 

Last night I saw a new play at Wales Millennium Centre in the Weston Studio called The Good Earth. It’s based on the true story of a community in the Valleys, and one family in particular, battling to save their homes, their identity, and their heritage. It reminded me of another quote from Baroness Andrews: “For a country such as Wales where change has been so rapid, and in recent years, so dislocating of communities and skills, looking to our culture and heritage as sources of power for the future is as important as the confidence that comes from knowing who we are and where we have come from.”

One to print out for your notice board! Or maybe just include it in your next funding application. 

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