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Defunding of the Arts: A Crisis

The arts and sciences have been pitted against each other for centuries. In many ways, they represent two entirely different pools of thought. Where the sciences require rigidity and absolute concision, the arts are less unyielding — they grant you the liberty to express your own thoughts, as the concept of a universally established ‘truth’ is not the ambition. While both fields undeniably provide humanity with value, some may argue that one field yields more value than the other. 



In recent years, with the rise of shiny new technologies, emphasis has been placed on careers in science. Tech is developing at a pace most find hard to keep up with, increasing the demand for those who can. Concurrently, it seems the arts are being pushed into the background. Although the creative industries contributed almost £13 million to the UK economy every hour in 2020, the government reformed its funding stream to higher education in 2021, redirecting money from arts-based subjects to science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) subjects. According to Playbill, many performing arts venues, such as the Royal Opera House, have suffered from funding cuts of almost £3 million. Vice and the Music Venue Trust have reported that 390 music venues are at risk of closing. It appears the arts are in a crisis.

 

With the UK’s STEM skills shortage and advancements in technology and data science, careers in the sciences are more in demand than ever. However, this pressure to deliver STEM graduates appears to be inextricably tied to the arts facing the cold shoulder. But is this justified? Undeniably, the sciences are vital to human existence as we know it. Science helps to satisfy basic human needs and increases the quality of our lives. It drives innovation and is therefore the engine of growth for the human species. 


However, the same could be said for the arts. Art is what keeps us sane, happy, and thriving. While science provides us with an understanding of the universe, the arts provide us with knowledge about ourselves and others. It is only through the arts that we can venture outside of ourselves, allowing us to be more sensitive and stretch our creative muscles. The arts provide escapism and also pave the way for subversion. Equally, they have the capacity to be an outlet for solidarity.

 

Already, the arts sector is difficult to break into. Overwhelmingly, it is often only pursued by those who have access to some sort of financial safety net. The combination of the pandemic, rising energy bills and the cost-of-living crisis, in addition to the defunding of the arts, is a real threat to culture as we know it. If the arts continue to be defunded, they will become less and less diverse. This diversity is what makes the arts so beautiful. It is the fabric out of which great art is woven — the experience of others, those different to us, is something that we need to be exposed to in order to grow.

 

It is incredibly difficult to find a balance between funding what is necessary to progress and what is necessary to find happiness. Both the arts and sciences are of the utmost importance. In many ways, they are even interlinked. However, if we do not endeavour to keep a just balance between the two, we will suffer. As of right now, the priority placed on STEM subjects in higher education is understandable if one considers the need for new research and development. Despite this, we need the arts to inspire and motivate us. Perhaps it is science that helps us to preserve the world, to maintain it — but it is the arts that make the world one worth preserving.


Image from Wikimedia Commons

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