Is Art as important as academic subjects?

What are the Arts? What are academics? And why is there a division between two respectively creative fields?

Is Art as important as academic subjects?

What is art? 

As frivolous as the question may sound, I think it's important to ask.

I queried my sister, a fine art student and part-time Early years teacher, how she would define art. In response…

Art means to create work that is relevant to what's going on now. It's important to people. It's work based on topics that we all worry about. Representing people. Challenging our perceptions. Our thoughts. Our ethos on life. Starting conversations. A good way to discuss difficult subjects. Experimenting and moving forward. It can be serious political things. Or entertainment (much like pop art). It can be collaborative. Figurative. Mixed media. Film. Photography. Interactive. Conceptual (Michael Craig-Martin's 'An Oak Tree'). It can be all of the above. Anything can be considered art. A universal language. It transcends all barriers. It's thinking. Feeling. Touching. Living. Breathing.

I then asked a friend, Hansel Mills (Marketing Apprentice and photographer)

Art is subjective creativity. It's being creative in whatever way you want. Whether you want to express your feelings or whether you want to create something that is pleasing to you and to others by using unorthodox methods… The point is that art is a creative way of expressing yourself.

I think it's important to grasp what art is in order to form any view or argument. Art is passion. Expression. Emotional power. It's anything and everything. It's something our life thrives on. Creation. Culture. Self-expression. Autobiographical. Something that reveals the essential or hidden truth.

Art permeates our lives. No, It's not "more" or "less" important than academics. But, even so, should it really be undermined?

At the Royal Opera House Bridge Rising Tide 2017 Annual conference on the 29th Thursday (promoting arts and navigating the future of cultural learning - 'A place for culture everywhere'), hosted by Baroness Lola Young, I was able to see a series of talks from practitioners concerned by arts, politics, literature, academics, and cultural learning:

  • Matthew Taylor (Chief Executive, RSA) on "Why tomorrow's children need a 21st Century Enlightenment"
  • Charlotte Winters (Trustee, Firstsite) on "More than just a box to tick"
  • Nicky Cox MBE (Co-founder & Editor-in-Chief, First News) on "27% of the World's population; 100% of the future"
  • Julia Farrington (Freelance campaigning, project and resources) on "Stemming the Tide"
  • Sir Kevan Collins (Chief Executive, Education Endowment Foundation) on "To Lift all ships"
  • Jackie Kay (Scots Makar - The National Poet for Scotland)
  • MKC Collective (Conceptual dancers)

Charlotte Winters' discussion was also incredibly inspiring. Discouraged at an early age that "to have money and be independent you need to take a science", she cannot resist the comfort art gives her; "creativity is [her] life". I was also interested in Kevan's discussion on the significance of cultural and academic learning - he was "increasingly concerned that creative subjects are being side-lined". He promoted "Art for its art sake". Many want to reduce arts, to diminish creativity while overlooking how children "need to learn what being human is". What he believes is that education is becoming a "false dichotomy" - a competition of skills and knowledge rather than a place for learning and engagement. I completely agree that creative arts enable all young communities to "[express] themselves in different ways". Schools are increasingly defined as "the bored teaching the bored" when, ultimately, "you are more likely to work hard when you are engaged and motivated to learn". I felt like I could completely relate to the ideas he was expressing. In respect of the challenges ('no communication and parental engagement', the fact that 'our education is too narrow', 'children not achieving Level 2 qualification' and lack of 'funding'), I believe we need to reject the idea that 'society is broken', despite how convenient it is to believe, and instead learn "essential life skills" in schools.

At the conference, I participated in the 'Learning the Ropes: A guild for creative careers engagement' workshop held by Tony Witton (manager of the Culture and Creative Economy Service in Kent County Council) and Michele Gregson (Royal Opera House North Kent Programme Manager). After the table discussions ("what does meaningful employer engagement in our sector look like?" and 'pursuing creative careers') and the additional talk by Nancy Hirst (Icon Theatre Artistic Director), Tolu (Gold arts award member) and I answered queries about our artsaward experiences, connections, leadership skills, and great employability. The arts are "creative, valuable and accessible" and I feel it needs to be promoted to people, particularly younger communities, globally. Clearly, the purpose of this conference was to enlighten people about culture and arts, its contribution to progression in society, entertainment, and education.

I personally have a creative and academic mind. I love English literature, classics, history and culture. And to me, there is an artistic relationship between the lyrical narratives of acclaimed novels and poems and the ingenuity of fine art pieces. I see art in original music sheets, spoken word, performing arts, prose, and historical relics. Again, art is 'defined' as expression and originality. Can't we also express ourselves through academics?

What are academics? Instantly, we associate this with people who're 'intellectual' and 'disregard practical skills'. Maths. Sciences. Humanities. Languages. Theory. By recognising 'core' subjects we're creating irrevocable divisions between creativity and practicality. Essentially, we're segregating people who think and act differently from us. How is this logical when each and every one of us, theoretical and productive minds, appreciate arts in entertainment and everyday activity? We subconsciously seek comfort from music, visual arts, architecture, gaming and animation, computing and technology, graphics and digital arts, photography, dance, public art, cultural and religious practices, written word, and cinematography. Art is ceaseless.

My Gold arts award portfolio, I believe, is evidence of my experimentation and creativity. Art is something I take seriously; I translate my experimental style in my portraits, photography, written word, and digital art.

In respect of academic and creative forms, many combine maths with computing and visual art (engineering), marketing or maths with product design (advertising/architecture), and literature with performance (journalism), to name a few. If we witness effective relationships between academics and arts habitually, why should we then favour one over another in school curriculums? Realistically, the purpose of schooling is to provide students with valued skills in logical problem-solving, collaboration, resourcefulness and other various practical skills that they can translate into their future careers. How can this be accomplished if there are limitations in artistic fields? Arts have a fundamental place in education. Young people develop through self-expression, movement, or drawing or music – "it is a means to strengthen identity and therefore social cohesion" (The Guardian). Instead, governments place a great emphasis on "knowledge-based curriculums"; art around the world is under threat with the knowledge that students' "individual vision" is seemingly worth very little.

According to William Morris, "Everybody ought to be taught to draw just as much as everybody ought to be taught to read and write". Likewise, knowing that arts are "being systematically removed from the education system" (Creativity draining away from schools, 18 February), I believe that we all have to recognise the huge value of arts and culture in society.

In the past few months, I have been visiting inspiring places in London and Kent exhibiting different forms of art to get a wider frame of how much the arts are promoted in society.

On May 31st, I visited the University of Kent (School of Music and Fine Art) to check out the 2017 Fine Art Degree Show. There were some really incredible pieces and innovative ideas that have personally inspired me to create artworks that intrigue or alarm my intended audience. Sustained original pieces in the Kent workshops proved, even more, how through extended practice in further and higher education, art can effect us emotionally.

An 'Urban Cosmos' by Sharmaine Kwan was especially inspiring. "The work reflects the artificiality of our surroundings". She investigates urban environments, new media technology, and virtual simulations through the use of interactive floor projection and sculpture. It's brilliant how she manages to create this immersive extraordinary environment where "experience connects with dreams and the unconscious". It examines problems related to urban development and an ever-changing landscape (an interpretation of society). It's an installation inspired by the space between reality and fantasy/Utopia and Dystopia. By building an exaggerated reflection of society, she raises questions "regarding the state of today and the future". This idealistic digital abstract setting shows the development of society's digital environment, architecture, and the future construction of cities.

I have also visited the National Portrait Gallery 'I am me' 2017 exhibition which hosted a season of displays exploring art, gender and identity (contemporary portraits raising questions on identity, self-images that mock traditional or cliched depictions of women, and intense emotionally charged self-portraits) and the Saturday 17th June 'Poets Poets' poetry reading at UCL (a reading with literary practitioners/discussing and reading poems and drafts in three panels).

I naturally write poetry, work as a front-of-house volunteer at Covent Garden's Iris Theatre (involved in current projects like Macbeth - based in the Front of House - helping in the delivery of performances and assisting the audience), read and study prose (classics and contemporary literature), work with new media, post-production, and technology in Media Studies (film and design production and analysis), constantly take photos for inspiration, do visual and digital artwork in my Fine Art studies, watch film and listen to soundtracks, musicals (Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, and Macbeth) and singer-songwriters and spoken word etc.

With the experience of all these different arts, I can't see how anything so comforting and inspiring should be regarded as 'less' or 'other'.

After reading some of 'Thames & Hudson "Art + Science Now"' book by Stephen Wilson, it's impossible to deny arts and academics are equally important. Aren't they both creative in their own way?

For instance, though art and science are respected as binary opposites, they are undeniable "twin engines of creativity". "Biology does not only belong to biology" in the same way art doesn't solely belong to artists. What we associate with biology is the nature of life and how our bodies and brains function. But, in all truth, this transcends 'academic categories'. Cultural and 'scientific' questions also demand widespread attention through the field of art.

Still, It's believed that we all only seek answers in our respective fields, but realistically, creativity and scientific processes can and do link (we're "composing music by means of brain waves" and "creating sculptures from body cells").

Can we deny how Leonardo da Vinci, a personality in the Renaissance, was participating in a culture with one of the many core values that…

…"Artists and scientists [cannot] succeed without being vitally interested in each other's work".

Essentially, both fields place great value in our lives. Arts and Academics should be equally respected.

Image result for royal opera house bridge


Joanna Bailey

Joanna Bailey Local Reporter

I'm a young freelance magazine journalist, artist and student based in Dartford. When time allows, you'll catch me taking an obsessive number of photos, sketching an abstract digital art portrait or watching an old bucket-listed film. When I'm not blogging, I'm admiring an underrated art piece somewhere or immersed in a classic play or novel.

Check out my Gold Arts Award portfolio here:

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  • Katie Jayne Appleyard

    On 3 July 2017, 14:04 Katie Jayne Appleyard commented:

    I agree. I think art is an expression of yourself and can help you develop just as much as a person even more so than academics as you learn to show emotion and express yourself. Logic and reason go hand in hand with creativity and expression. It is hard to have one without another.

  • Joanna Bailey

    On 3 July 2017, 18:01 Joanna Bailey Local Reporter commented:

    It's really nice to hear from someone who agrees. Thanks :)

  • Luke Taylor

    On 5 July 2017, 10:03 Luke Taylor Contributor commented:

    What an amazing article! I think it's about time people stopped valuing one subject over the other, when both are essential to society's progress.

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