The Arts Industry – Who is it for?
I wrote about a similar topic once before (for the political blog site Shifting Grounds (http://shiftinggrounds.org/2012/10/who-are-the-arts-for/)). It was my first foray into blogging and so I ventured forth with all the outrage and the Tory-blaming cries of “elitists!” I felt was necessary, before landing at the woeful, yet standard conclusion that “we arty types are misunderstood and under-valued”.
My point back then was focussed on venues, and I posed the question; who needs money more, the National Theatre (whose audience is predominantly wealthy centre-left middle-upper class Londoners, are sponsored by Travelex and who sell out shows weekly) or the Chelsea Theatre (who work predominantly with their local community and could never charge more than £10 a ticket)?
This blog asks a similar question but puts venues and audiences aside. Who can pursue a career in the Arts? Who is able to make the Art our funded or non-funded venues take in? Who creates the work our free admission or expensive ticket-purchasing audiences can enjoy?
With drama school fees going up beyond comprehension, where you have to pay £50 for the luxury of being auditioned, and if you do get selected from the many hundreds they audition, you then pay in excess of ten thousand pounds a year in fees while supporting yourself in central London and on top of this you try and do as they tell you and see lots of theatre and eat the organic healthy stuff. This kind of opportunity is very, very clearly not open to anyone and everyone. While scholarship programmes are taking big steps, they only really help if you already live in London or have an aunt who’s willing to have you stay.
Sure, after graduation you have a drama school on your CV for life, you have “first rate” training under your belt, you have a network of people on speed dial. Chances are though, none of your peers will “make it”. You see, hundreds of others who can afford drama schools are graduating simultaneously, over-populating an industry/sector which is under-valued and grossly under-invested in.
Then there are people who boycott the drama school route, and these are the people I am most interested in. On the one hand you have Uni graduates (Cambridge Footlights is a good example) but on the other hand you have people who choose not to, or cannot, go down the education route. Creativity, and I mean real, raw, in your blood senses for imagination and storytelling isn’t taught, so how do these people get opportunities in the industry?
So to keep the discussion moving (I’m told blogs have to be short) let’s say, regardless of how you got here, you’re one of the few who choose to commit to making Art. Despite the challenges, you are determined to make it your living. It is what you need to do, it is what you want to do or perhaps you’ve just decided to give it a shot, roll the dice, let’s see.
In order to do this you must have an exceptional amount of courage or boundless self-belief. (Unless money is no object to you, then of course, why the heck NOT devote your time to the fun and creative process that is Art-making…?) Safely assuming the majority don’t have a huge pot of gold to sustain their creative needs, their future lends itself to one of funding applications, unpaid work (for “experience” – LUCKY YOU), praying, asking friends and family to pay you (also known as crowd-funding), chasing rainbows, calling in favours and eating beans.
So, and I ask this very genuinely, who can pursue a career in the Arts?
I’m not sure it is the best and most talented people.
(If you, dear Block Stop blog reader, are thinking I have this all wrong, please do get in touch and let me know. I want to understand who out there is making Art and making it work without some serious dollar behind them at the start).
Post by Melanie Grossenbacher