Guest Blog by Sian Tomos, Arts Council of Wales – Investing in our artists is investing in our future
As I write, President Trump looks set to pull the United States of America out of the Paris global climate agreement. Climate change denial is gaining traction and dismissing the views of experts and scientists who have studied these things for many years is common place.
This ‘post truth’ world is toxic and scary and makes catastrophizing easy. Our human response to such huge and challenging situations is emotional and closed down. Fear makes us switch off and bury our heads in the sand. In our heart of hearts, we know that the devastating consequences will not only destabilise many regions of the globe, it will also destroy the homes and livelihoods of millions of people. The future is too awful to even think about, right? It’s out of our control. There’s nothing we can do.
The reality is probably not quite so bleak. We have probably reached the point where we have the technical capacity and skills available to us to solve our most pressing climate change issues. So if the time pressure value is ratcheting up by the second – and we have the design skills we need to go a long way to solving our problem – what is it that is actually stopping us?
We need the answer to the critical question of our generation fast.
For me it is clear that the main barriers are cultural not technological. Whilst we continue to tell ourselves about this dystopian world that we can’t control, we strangle hope at birth. We need to recognise the vital role that our cultural activities play in allowing us to both understand and re-imagine our world. In ancient Greece, the drama or play was a ‘place for seeing’ for the citizens. There was a critical moment of ‘seeing’ in both tragedies and comedies. The difference was one of timing. In the tragedy, the moment of ‘seeing’ comes too late. In the comedy, the time is used for learning: we see what others don’t. Disaster is averted and those that hide the truth are shamed.
The arts continue to play this role in society – holding a mirror up, holding the space for discussion, thinking outside the box. Art brings people together, creates jobs, makes our communities great places to live, work and play in. It may not be something you consciously notice but it is central to our quality of life and well-being.
A long tradition of socially engaged art in Wales continues to sow the seeds of vitality and energy in our communities every single day. Our Ideas: People: Places and Culture Shift projects all over Wales are using creativity and imagination to re-vitalise forgotten spaces and people who have lost their voice. We’ve seen glimpses of artists turning potential tragedies into comedies here – giving people the time, space and tools they need to renew their lives, their communities and the planet. By investing in our artists we invest in all of our futures by making it possible for us to see a world that is based on the principles of social justice, promotes individual well-being – and doesn’t literally cost the earth.