Following the British Conservative Party’s landslide victory in England’s general election last week, the Tate and thirty-five other arts institutions are calling for the new government, under Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to combat the decline of arts education in primary and secondary schools by providing additional funding.
Museum leaders claim that more students are turning to cultural organizations to fill the gaps left by the current curriculum and are demanding greater access to an arts-rich education. Tate director Maria Balshaw declared that exposure to the visual arts “must not depend on social and economic advantage” and that many state schools are “starved” of the resources to nurture creativity and cultural learning. For Martin Clark, the director of Camden Arts Center, “millions of children are being failed by an education system not fit for purpose or for the new realities of the twenty-first century.”
The Tate’s appeal was partly inspired by its ongoing exhibition “Steve McQueen Year 3,” which opened on November 12 and runs until May 3, 2020. For the project, McQueen, a Turner Prize–winning artist and celebrated filmmaker, invited every Year 3 pupil in London to have their photograph professionally taken and included in a massive installation at Tate Britainmore than 1,500 schools participated. Curated by Clarrie Wallis and Nathan Ladd, the exhibition is drawing six hundred school children per day to the museum.
Commenting on the project, McQueen said: “Art and creativity are so important to science, to math, or to any other academic venture. Cutting arts education means you cut off inventiveness which impacts on being creative. We have many great artists, great thinkers and inventors in the UK and this has come through a sense of possibility. Arts education gives that sense of possibility. I hope Year 3 will spark opportunities for long-term creativity.”
Among the institutions that have joined the Tate’s petition for curriculum reform are the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, the Camden Arts Centre, Chisenhale Gallery, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Golden Thread Gallery, Grizedale Arts, Hepworth Wakefield, the Liverpool Biennial, Nottingham Contemporary, South London Gallery, Spike Island, Turner Contemporary, and the Whitworth.