We’re at a fulcrum moment. We can choose to turn towards supporting the arts or away from that mission. You might not think you can have much impact, or that it doesn’t apply to you – you couldn’t be more wrong and I will explain why.
First, a couple of stories to help underline the point. Just over 12 years ago I started writing about the arts for the Yorkshire Post, and around a dozen years before that, a terrible decision was made that would have a long impact on the state of the arts in Yorkshire. When I first became the Yorkshire Post arts correspondent I was assigned a writing task that, were I asked to do it now, I would refuse. I was to write a feature comparing a series of art installations around Leeds to Christmas decorations hung around the city at the same time. The inference was that the two had little separating them. I felt uncomfortable writing the piece, but it was an order from an editor so I obeyed. The article was a manifestation of a wrong-headed attitude towards the arts. Just because you don’t get something, doesn’t mean it’s worthless. The other bad decision involves a sculpture that never was. The Brick Man was supposed to be, in 1988, a large-scale new sculpture from Yorkshire-educated artist Antony Gormley. Planned to stand at the south of Leeds train station, city leaders thought it would be a eyesore and refused planning permission. Gormley went to the North East and made The Angel of the North instead, an iconic work of art the likes of which could have been owned by Yorkshire. Short-sighted, wrong-headed decisions are not what we want to be making right now. In 2017, Hull will be the UK’s City of Culture. A group of public-minded, arts-loving individuals are currently working on Leeds’s bid to be the 2023 European Capital of Culture. We have world-leading theatres, dance companies, arts spaces and artists in Yorkshire and the fulcrum moment is this: do we deride that, ignore it or celebrate it? You have the power to decide. Write to your council and tell them what your arts facilities mean to you. See a small scale play at a venue full of up and comers, visit an art gallery showcasing the work of major artists of tomorrow and don’t stand idly by while people who don’t get it make bad decisions about the art in our lives.