Archive for July 7th, 2010

Selling the Arts

7th July 2010 by Maura McHugh

The Irish Times has a useful article in light of the recent push to exploit the good reputation of the Arts in Ireland as a way of selling “Brand Ireland”.

While the Arts sector welcomes acknowledgement of its contribution to Irish society, there are potential difficulties with positioning it as the latest resource that can be plundered during the recession:

The arts – and the role of artists – have to be valued on their own terms and not as a commodity. Musician and film-maker Philip King’s address to the Willie Clancy summer school over the weekend is worth heeding, especially his cautionary note that “the language of the market place, with its distortions of the ordinary into the unintelligible, is not compatible with the language of our tradition. The market does not husband and nurture resources. It exploits and ‘leverages’ them, it mines them, and if unchecked will open cast mine them before moving on ”.

Ireland’s new Professor of Poetry, Harry Clifton, took up a similar theme when he spoke about “the crush of market forces where the human mind becomes a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder”. No doubt what was on his mind was the current debate about the downgrading of the liberal arts in our universities.

The suggestion that Ireland’s “world-class achievement in creativity” can provide a panacea is now being bounced around, almost willy-nilly, as part of political and economic discourse. Hopes for a boost in visitor numbers are pinned on “cultural tourism”: what we do not appear to have, as yet, is any joined up thinking and what is emphatically missing from the current discourse is any acknowledgment of the more fundamental role of the arts in the wellbeing and balance of society. It is not all about tourism.