In times of economic struggle, it is sadly the art industry that face cuts to their funding. The UK Arts Council has seen its funding slashed by millions in previous years, leading to fewer performances and exhibitions and less opportunities for people to engage with the arts.
The shadow minister for culture, Chris Bryant has outlined that one of his priorities is to encourage diversity and fairer funding in the arts, yet with the shock result of the recent UK General Election it is unclear whether these priorities will become reality. What we can be sure of, however, is that he is not alone in his sentiments. Many leading figures in the arts wholeheartedly agree and implore the government to reconsider any further damaging cuts.
The funding cuts might also place the progress of gender equality in the fine arts industry at risk. In the last year, we have seen Maria Balshaw and Frances Morris take positions as the Tate galleries director and director of the Tate Modern respectively – both the first women to occupy these roles at the summit of the world of international contemporary art. Also among their ranks are Diane Lees, director-general of the Imperial War Museum as well as chair of the National Museum Directors’ Council, and Yana Peel, chief executive of London’s Serpentine Gallery. Yet, with strains on budgets in the fine art industry, it can be harder to provide flexible hours to women with children or lessen the longstanding gender gap in pay.
There are steps being taken to ensure that this progression continues, encouraging many women within the industry to develop their confidence in taking these leadership positions. Sotheby’s regularly organises private networking lunches for female art dealers, advisors, curators and academics at the times of sales. Networks are constantly being developed even despite the funding cuts. These women are looking to have their achievements celebrated.
The USA is also facing arts funding cuts, along with cuts to the departments of Energy, Commerce, Transportation, Justice and State. With more than 4.7 million people estimated to be employed in the US arts and culture economy, it is no surprise that these cuts are worrying many. With many of the activities run by the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) also taking place in high-poverty neighborhood, there are also worries for how such defunding will have social impacts too. There are however many private companies who also contribute funding to the NEA and other arts bodies in the USA, so there is still hope that these projects can continue to thrive.
Funding cuts to the arts are not just an issue within the UK, also impacting other places in the world. The fine art industry is important not only to the economy, but to many communities, education and the furthering of gender equality. It will be a tragedy if funding cuts put these things at risk, but there are individuals across the country that are determined not to let this progress diminish, and despite the cuts to continue to help further the fine arts industry.