Controversial artist Tracey Emin once said the Conservatives were the only hope for the arts in Britain but has warned of rioting in the streets if the subject is not a core part of the Government’s overhaul of GCSEs.
The cultural world is up in arms over proposals for the English baccalaureates (Ebacc), which include dropping arts as one of the core subjects. The Tate is spearheading a campaign to designed to convince education secretary Michael Gove to change his mind.
Emin said the effects of giving inner-city children no creative outlet at schools could be devastating, and could transform into violence. “If anyone thought the riots in 2011 were bad, take the arts out of the curriculum and it will be worse than it was before.”
She has worked with troubled teenagers and said challenging them with the arts had a very positive effect, adding: “Michael Gove has to rethink the policy.”
“If art isn’t considered as important as other subjects it will just fall by the wayside,” Emin said, before adding: “It can’t become a secondary subject.”
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “No school will be prevented from offering qualifications in the arts, but it is the core academic subjects most valued by universities and employers which make up the Ebacc.” The consultation closed in December and the Government will set out its response “in due course”.
Emin’s decision to weigh in is something of a surprise as she is one of the few from the artist community to admit backing the Tories in the run up to the last election.
Emin was born in London and grew up in Margate. She earned a master’s degree at the Royal College of Art before rising to fame as one of the Young British Artists, with controversial work such as the unmade bed. “It was only the confidence that my art teachers instilled in me that allowed me to go down the route I did,” she said.
She is regarded as becoming more establishment in recent years. She became a fellow of the Royal Academy in 2007, and was appointed the institution’s professor of drawing four years later. She has created artwork for Downing Street and was recently awarded a CBE.
Yet last year, she wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron air her concerns over the Government’s decision not to include arts as a core subject in their Ebacc proposals. “I got a letter back saying they are investing in other forms of the arts. And there are interesting ideas around Saturday morning clubs.”
She revealed a year ago that the arts industry had been abusive over her support for the Conservatives. “The world I live in, people never vote Tory – especially within the art world – so I am a bit of an outsider on that one,” she said.