Michael Glover: Lack of creativity in schools shows the Government is confused policy

Click to follow
The Independent Online

If you want a good example of the contradictions at the heart of this Government's funding of the arts, you need only go to Gallery One of the government-funded National Gallery. The current exhibition, a display of children's art called "Take One Picture", shows how the skilful deployment of one brilliant painting by Canaletto, The Stonemason's Yard, can galvanise whole communities of children into thinking creatively about the world.

If you want a good example of the contradictions at the heart of this Government's funding of the arts, you need only go to Gallery One of the government-funded National Gallery. The current exhibition, a display of children's art called "Take One Picture", shows how the skilful deployment of one brilliant painting by Canaletto, The Stonemason's Yard, can galvanise whole communities of children into thinking creatively about the world.

Here's how it works. Primary school teachers spend a day at the gallery where, in exchange for a modest £55 fee, they learn how large-scale images of the painting and the National Gallery's online resources can encourage children back in school to create works of their own. The results are brilliant examples of creative collaboration.

And why are initiatives of this kind so crucial? Because worship of the core curriculum has almost driven art off the timetable. Ask any trainee teacher. And so the National Gallery's initiative, funded by the Government, tries to undo the damage that the Government's inflexible educational goals have created in the first place.

When Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, talks airily about "art for art's sake" and the reversal of the nation's poverty of aspiration through doses of culture on the cheap, we should be wary of electioneering. The truth is this: there is neither the money nor the will to substantially increase the modest annual acquisitions budget of Tate Modern (approximately £500,000, almost identical to the acquisitions budget of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm) or the wretched grant-in-aid to the regional museums at this point in the electoral cycle.

And why? Because Gordon Brown's priorities lie elsewhere. It's as simple as that. And if there had been a hope in hell of anything happening to the contrary, Tessa Jowell would have provided us with more than fine words about "intelligent public subsidy".

And there is one other matter too. Engagement with culture - even if we were able to define the meaning of that slippery word - does not necessarily reduce our poverty of aspiration. Flea-ridden Arthur Rimbaud wrote some of the greatest French poems of the 19th century. And when he had done with poetry, he turned gun-runner in Africa. Now there's a perplexing example of cultural ascent.

Comments