by Laura Potts

As a fine art student, I spend my time surrounded by others engaged in creative practices or on creative career paths. However, as I’ve progressed through the first year of my degree I’ve noticed a major stigma attached to these paths. Even within my own arts university there is a perception that fine art students are less ‘realistic’ than those on other creative courses in the university, like graphic design or fashion. This perception, usually held by people who haven’t taken the time to ask fine art students and other creatives about our work, has spread widely through society. Modern artists do not warrant the same level of interest and respect as the great painter-philosophers of previous centuries.

The UK has seen a worrying decline in creative subjects being chosen at degree level. UCAS figures show that around 17,000 fewer students have chosen to take creative subjects this year than in 2016. This comes at a time of rising pressure to be ‘realistic’ and to have a definitive path of income for the future. The prospect of committing time, money (soon up to £9,250 per year) and effort to a degree that many self-proclaimed realists decry as ‘pointless’, is unsurprisingly unappealing.

we must oppose this narrative and stress the development of creativity in the face of adversity

But studying art is far from pointless. On the contrary, the arts and creative thinking are more vital than ever in our swelteringly capitalist world. According to the World Economic Forum, creativity will be the third most important skill for employment by 2020. The government is nonetheless failing to make creative education a top priority, as evidenced by the lack of support at school and college level. Vast funding cuts are described as ‘vital’, and it is stressed that they will not affect the creative opportunities of young people. But the aforementioned figures of reduced application for creative paths make that difficult to believe. Although government cuts to education do not only affect the arts, living under a government so dedicated to denying the value of creativity is daunting, and it is not difficult to see why many feel pressured to follow a more ‘traditional’ path in education and training. But we must oppose this narrative and stress the development of creativity in the face of adversity. Creativity is much needed in society. Not only does it teach expression, which many children may struggle to learn otherwise, but it produces intuitive, inquiring minds – the minds that will solve the problems of the future.

Without creativity in education, our capitalist degrees will keep churning out the same psychological structure, and we will struggle to resolve the overriding problems of our world. Creative progression is absolutely crucial to bring about solutions to society’s issues that are balanced with appreciation and gratitude for the goods of the world we live in. If we stand by and allow creativity to be further sidelined, our reward will be a dangerous reorientation of our goals as a society, and of the way we see the world.

Now is the time to create new models for business, for interaction, for life

The Brexit process is a further challenge to the future of creative education. UCAS figures also show that a 7% reduction of European students coming to the UK to study across all subjects, and it’s pretty likely that those who do come despite the uncertainty of this country’s international situation will not choose a seemingly ‘less reliable’ degree but opt for something that will lead to a supposedly more ‘structured’ future. Brexit, cuts and these unhelpful attitudes paint a bleak future for international arts study.

Although the difficulties facing creative education are likely to get worse before they get better, the creative sphere is a resilient one. I recently spoke to fine art practitioner and lecturer Karl Rowe (NUA) about these concerns. His response was optimistic: ‘I have pondered this over the years and keep finding positives in the fact that creativity is an increasingly desired quality across a broad spectrum of employment’. There is comfort to be found in this; it suggests that more people and organisations are becoming aware of the importance of creativity, even if fewer are choosing to dedicate their educations to chasing the progressive heights of the arts. Now is the time to create new models for business, for interaction, for life, that do not feed the rapacious destruction of capitalism. Now is the time to consider taking up a creative subject, or encouraging the younger generation to do so, before creative education is cut, dismissed and ridiculed down to nothing.

Featured Image via LaurMG

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