The Arts and the Economy


National Campaign for the Arts promotional video

With the Budget looming it is difficult to think of the arts without thinking of politics. But the two are never far apart. The country's bailout has seen Ireland get negative publicity around the globe causing the arts, which is a huge figure in cultural identity, to be ever more relevant.

There is a tendency to "live in the past". People focus on what their houses were once worth and where they once wen on holiday. When we think of cultural identity we think of the 1916 Easter rising. There is difficulty in visualizing a new nation. In my hometown Athlone there are proposals/talks/plans of avisual arts gallery. The proposed site was the old library and the plans included what I thought of as a tasteful expansion to the original construction. Opposition claimed that it was a waste of money and suggested that the building be used to house memorabilia of Count John McCormack,  "Athlone's most famous son". Count John McCormack was a respected tenor who died in 1945, his memorabilia is already on display elsewhere.  My frustration lies in the desire to focus on the past and an inability to visualize a new future. There is talent, skill and ambition being exported out of the the town as it lacks a visuals arts community and a suitable venue would go a long way in rectifying this. It would create jobs and attract tourism and potentially larger employers. However, many would rather focus on something that happened 100 years ago. It is similar to saying "instead of funding next year's Olympic team, lets build a monument to the last team".

Contemporary art is a scary term that is laden down with preconceptions. But contemporary merely references things of today. So it is obvious that contemporary arts have a huge role to play in forging a future and making today a little more enjoyable. The included video is a little cheesy at times but the message is spot on.

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