"What We Can Rely on Is Our Creativity, Our Inspiration and Our Passion": In These Turbulent Times, Arts and Culture Are Crucial, Not Only to Our Well-Being, but to Economic Recovery. We Neglect Them at Our Peril, Argues the Actor and Old Vic Director Kevin Spacey
Spacey, Kevin, New Statesman (1996)
Amid the never-ending talk of credit crunch, downturn and recession, it is inevitable, say the doomsters and gloomsters, that there will be less money for the arts and culture. So the question then becomes: does it matter? Surely these are luxury items that we can do without when times are tough? As strongly as I can, I would argue no.
I believe in arts and culture and I believe that, far from being luxury items, they are a necessity in our lives, as individuals and as nations. Countries may go to war but it is culture that unites us: the words of a great writer, the style of a legendary dancer, the brilliance our favourite actors display in bringing life to their roles, a Mozart piano concerto, the endless mystery of Mona Lisa's smile, the flickering images on celluloid and the countless stories they have told. Here in Shakespeare's country, this should be understood more clearly perhaps than anywhere else in the world-that the arts inspire, uplift, challenge, stimulate our conversations, drive our debates and remain in our memories.
What I have come to recognise, in my six years of fundraismg for the Old Vic theatre in London, is that those of us who make an argument for supporting the arts have not used the economic impact of arts and culture as the centrepiece of our appeals as much as we should. Too often we focus solely on the social aspects of what we can achieve, or the artistic merits. These are important and valid, but I believe we should change tack at this time. Instead of apologetically holding our hat in our hands, we should cite the economic successes of what is called show business. We can do better by recognising how much our cultural life contributes to the health of communities across our nation and, indeed, around the world. Those who enjoy culture should be more aware of the financial contribution arts institutions make to their communities.
Relationships between business and the arts offer a real chance to achieve financial success--not only for each other, but also to generate income for the hotels, restaurants and countless other businesses that populate the neighbourhoods where cultural centres operate. I for one do not want to see another regeneration plan that does not have arts and culture at the heart of its offer. Without it, we are not building rounded communities, but ignoring the fabric and soul of society.
It is also important that the arts remain high on the agenda of government. I was hugely encouraged to see that President Obama's stimulus package included an additional $50m towards investment in the arts, despite efforts by some to remove that amount before the Senate was to vote on it. …