The 2019 NatWest Student Living Index shows that students devote an average of 2.9 hours per month to creative or performing arts related activities. They also spend an average of £3.50 per month on engaging in artistic and cultural activities.
To put this in context, the average UK student is spending about £44.2 per month on socialising, £26.80 on alcohol and £12.00 on academic studies. So, why aren’t students investing their time and money in performing arts?
Are the arts accessible enough for students?
Traditional forms of art – theatre, ballet, opera, painting, etc. – are all associated with high-costs, older audiences and dated topics. In larger cities especially, these forms of art have been struggling to attract the pounds and pence of students.
Students will be more inclined to devote time and money to the arts if the prices are accessible and the forms are modernised.
The latter is already happening. Classic theatre is being reworked for modern audiences, ballet is turning away from the tried-and-true towards brave and fresh forms of expression, and even opera and classical music is doing its bit to stay relevant to modern audiences.
The former will always rely on some cooperation. If the need is there, price packages will be created to suit the student budget. So, how can universities, venues and directors get students to invest in the performing arts?
Sell the benefits
Watching or performing creative arts is about so much more than consuming or creating a finished product. It’s about community and sharing experiences. Joining a performing arts group at university or attending performing arts events is the perfect way to meet people and come together over a shared passion.
University students are looking for social experiences. They go to the pub and university parties because it can seem like this is the only way to meet people. Give them another way by selling the social aspect of creative arts.
Remove the boundaries
It’s time to redefine art. Instead of just showing theatre, painting, music and dance, it’s time to think of tattooing, fashion and even sport as forms of art. Previously subversive art forms, like rave culture and street art, have been accepted and it’s vital that newer forms are brought in to increase engagement and ensure that everyone can find something they relate to.
If people that love skating can meet in a space with painters or classical musicians, the cross-pollination that has been so important in the history of art will take place and the magic happens.
Make it easy
Tight budgets and long study hours mean getting involved in the creative arts can be hard. It shouldn’t always be up to students to catch a bus to see a concert or find time on the weekend to attend a gallery opening. Universities need to bring art to the students. Lectures need to teach through art and most importantly, endowments need to go towards the arts.
Give students a voice
Art has always given the voiceless a voice and students need to recognise the power they have when they engage with creative arts. Whether it’s finding a performer that is speaking to you or creating something that allows you to speak, art is a ticket to being heard.
This is why students need to invest in the performing arts, because it’s an investment in themselves. It’s an investment in the forms and spaces that will give them, and people like them, a place to come together, to have an opinion and feel validated.