UK Artists Against Despotic Nations?
Check out my latest paper, which is part of a special issue of the International Journal of Education Through Art. The issue, edited by Professor Stuart MacDonald, examines the creative industries. In my paper, I argue that the ambiguities and contradictions of creative industries policy rhetoric and its implementation obscure and mitigate artists, musicians and performers’ pedagogies. I summarize the article below.
In the late 1990s, an important report in the UK arts education field was published: Sir Ken Robinson’s All our Futures Report. It uses United Kingdom’s presumed national economic decline and lack of social cohesion as pretexts for arguing that the structure and delivery of schools needed to be updated. The economic argument makes the case that the UK needs to drive economic growth through developing a workforce adept at working in the creative industries. Required capabilities include generating and delivering intellectual property, symbolic meaning and other goods and services in unprecedented ways.
In response to recommendations from this paper, UK education policy from 1997 to 2010 enlisted so-called creative practitioners – workers in the creative industries that include artists, musicians, and performers – to foster creative practices in schools and contribute to their structural change through a national program named Creative Partnerships (CP). In this paper, I investigate this economic rationale and its policy implications for UK arts education. Its main contribution is a descriptive statistical analysis of the creative practitioners who were enlisted through CP between 2002 and 2006. This analysis shows a disconnect between CP’s rhetoric and practice.
Creative Partnerships rhetoric attempts to distance itself from “doing the arts” through familiar school-based artist residencies. Through Creative Partnerships, not artist residencies, workers in the creative industries to teach students to question, make connections, invent and reinvent, and “flex their imaginative muscles.” But I show that seven out of ten people hired by Creative Partnerships from 2002-2006 were underemployed artists, performers and musicians. A small core group, six out of every 100, did nearly half of the work, and this core group was prized for its previous experience working with children, young people and schools.
I argue that by referring to CP’s underemployed artists, musicians and performers as creative practitioners, its rhetoric conflates them with software engineers and media moguls. This ambiguous rhetoric, I argue, sidesteps artists’ potential aversion to the creative industries agenda and thus mitigates their potential resistance to it. And its ambiguity provides a palatable environment for artist, musicians and performers to make a living through so-called creative teaching and learning in schools. Given the narrow economic rationale for education today, most principals and parents might subscribe to their children “doing creative work” before “making art.”
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