Email From A Concerned Artist

The following is an anonymous email from a concerned artist (not me) about the proposed closure of Stirling's Changing Room gallery. I have copied this from Facebook and posted it here because Facebook can sometimes be tricky to link to. It accompanies this blog post on the matter.

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" Cultural Services are the default victim. Falkirk saved a pittance by closing the Park Gallery, and subsuming it into Callander House Museum. There, as the provost told me, councillors voted for closure despite never having visited it, not even knowing what it was. People will characteristically see arts as a fringe area, an indulgence, seemingly unconnected with economic health, unaware of the massive effect of fashion, games design, music industry, visual art and design, etc, on the nation's economy. This myopia affects the highest level of educational strategy, with emotional development unaddressed by Michael Gove, amongst others.

Forth Valley College have committed to Stirling in the new Kildean Campus, with close ties to University of Stirling in particular through the department of Creative Industries, teaching precisely these subjects. Contemporary art is a vital input to the education of college students, firstly, through providing accessible examples of outstanding practice; secondly, through offering both mentoring and exhibition to students emerging as graduates; and, thirdly, through gallery volunteering opportunities for those embarked on a fine art career. Schools, too, benefit from access to such a facility.

The Changing Room, Stirling's only contemporary art gallery, offered all these benefits. It has been described by Times newspapers as one of the ten best artspaces in UK, and presented international art, emerging national artists (often before they become internationally celebrated, as with Nathan Colley), and fulfilled a vital function locally for professional artists, school exhibitions, and Artlink Central, working with patients, and community groups. It recognises art's role in the mental wellbeing of the population. It also brings artists who exhibit in to contact with public groups through talks, tours of work, and workshops.

It is thus regrettable therefore, that the proposed cuts to the Cultural Servicves budget to be presented to councillors for Thursay's vote should target the Changing Room, cutting the salary of its director,Emma Hamilton. Artlink, and the Tolbooth suffer similarly, with staff and facility cuts severely damaging their executive powers. The professional abilities being cut are not replaceable. Volunteers would not be able to match the specific skills and nationwide reputation painstakingly assembled.

Some would cite The Smith, Creative Stirling and Made in Stirling Pop-up, as offering a sufficient contemporary facility in visual art. While I concede the excellence they offer in particular areas, they do not aim to match the ambitions of the Changing Room. Art may be associated with museum exhibits, with specifically youth culture, with tourism and commerce, but the difference is in the autonomous focus on art of our times. It cannot be gauged by a populist measure such as bums on seats. The elitism of football excellence is a comparison better appreciated by all.

Were we to change the Cultural Services target for, say, Sports Development, which has had major capital funding at the Peak, the public outcry would be vociferous. Physical health is measured easily, as is its absence in obese Britain, despite the Olympic effect. Why cannot the emotional education through the arts have such general understanding?

What I wish to start rolling out is a combined response to be delivered before Thursday to Stirling Council Chief Executive, local councillors, MP"s, MSP's, press and Cultural Services Director. If this is already happening through other media, I hope to join that campaign. "

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Go back to my blog post.