Acclaimed sculptor Antony Gormley believes the arts are under attack and warned that Britain will become a “society of robots” if the Government ignores the arts as a core subject in the shake-up of GCSEs. He added that creativity, such as drawing, was “as important a skill” as writing.
In a letter seen by The Independent, the Angel of the North sculptor called on Michael Gove to add the arts as a core subject of the proposed English Baccalaureates, saying: “How will we build on the success which so many people have worked so hard for so many years to create?”
The traditional view of Britain had transformed from a science, literature and industry-based culture to a “world leader in visual arts,” Gormley said. “This has been achieved by the importance placed on self-development throughout the school system and by the creation of art schools which are the envy of the world.”
“It shouldn’t be a choice between sciences and the humanities,” he continued. “The arts are under attack. It’s absolutely ridiculous when you see the success of the arts sector. We bring in almost as much as finance and employ many more.”
The letter said: “Instrumentalising education to the point where only numeracy, literacy and the sciences are supported because they are considered most valuable to industry, and continuing to exclude the humanities from state support at university level, will produce a society of robots.”
With little prospect of creative outlets for future generations of schoolchildren, compounded by devastating funding cuts to cultural institutions across the board, He fears a return to the 19th century and wealthy “amateurs” being the only ones rich enough to make art.
Gormley’s letter follows a similar campaign spearheaded by the Tate, which is backed by the British Museum, National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, to promote the arts as a core EBacc subject.
“Michael Gove clearly has a bee in his bonnet,” Gormley said: “It’s clear he’s not afraid of antagonising people.”
This comes a day after Gormley joined artists, musicians and actors who signed an open letter protesting against Newcastle City Council, which plans to cut its art budget entirely.
Sting, Bryan Ferry, Jimmy Nail and Neil Tennant were among the signatories on the letter that claimed the 100 per cent arts budget cuts would “decimate the cultural life of the city”.
Gormley said in his letter to the Education Minister: “Making things is an important part of making a world. To learn to think and make creatively in one form is to be able to use creative thinking in another, and drawing, for example, is just as important a skill as writing.”
He added: “There is the awakening of creativity that has been repressed since the reformation; for the first time in our culture, it’s not about lone mavericks like Turner or Blake. An increasing amount of people are engaging with visual arts.”