In the midst of a national culture war surrounding the validity of problematic statuary, the U.K. government has elected to reduce funding for educational art and design programs by 50%, new reports indicate. The decision was made after a proposal earlier this year produced by Gavin Williamson, the U.K.’s education secretary, who postulated that the coronavirus pandemic necessitated financial focus on “strategic priorities;” the priorities as he defined them do not include the arts, performing arts or music. The governmental move has already sparked distinct outrage from artists and cultural commentators who believe that the reduction is a horrible idea, but it appears that nothing can undo the decision.
“These changes will help ensure that increased grant funding is directed towards high-cost provision that supports key industries and the delivery of vital public services, reflecting priorities that have emerged in the light of the coronavirus pandemic,” Williamson said in a statement. Williamson is of the opinion that governmental funds should mainly be directed towards industries involving medicine, science and technology.
Perhaps predictably, advocates for the arts are speaking out vehemently in opposition to the newly announced governmental stance. “Boris [Johnson] was the first prime minister in a long time to talk about our value when he became the P.M. What is his position now?” Paula Orrell, the director of the Contemporary Visual Arts Network, told Artnet News. “They need to find an economic solution to empower the future education choices of the next generation rather than continuing to eradicate arts throughout the education system, which has systematically happened from primary now to higher education.”
Unfortunately, education cuts are by no means unique to the U.K.: a report released last November stated that 67% of American museums that responded to a survey reported cutting back on education, programming, and other public services due to pandemic-associated budget shortfalls.