The writer Henry James once said “It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance…” and many would agree with his point of view. Art is not only pleasing to the eye; good art should teach the viewer something about the world and about human experience.
While art can be an incredibly important part of making sense of life, it is also a privilege that is denied to many people. Art galleries are traditionally stuffy, inaccessible places that precious few people were able to access let alone feel welcome. However, many initiatives and schemes to make art more accessible are helping those without these inherent privileges access art that may otherwise be denied to them.
Museums free for all
Making access to art galleries free for all is one way that arts organisations are attempting to encourage more people to get into art. Across England, Wales and Scotland, many of the permanent collections in the museums and art galleries are now free for people of all ages to access and provide great opportunities for individuals and groups to see artworks for themselves.
A great many art galleries and museums that offer free access to their collections have other services that help individuals better connect with the artworks on show. Curators and museum staff offer guided tours and activities for children and young people to help them understand the works of art on offer and get more from the artistic experience. An understanding of the history of art through the ages also helps to see how the development of style, technique and subject matter have come to shape modern artworks and the way in which today’s artists express themselves.
In addition to the big municipal museums and galleries in many towns and cities, some smaller independent galleries and arts centres also offer free admission to members of the public. These galleries often have collections of more contemporary artworks that are offered for sale as well as being open for viewing by the public.
Arts centres frequently offer opportunities for local people to meet with artists to gain a greater insight into the artistic process. In addition, aspiring amateur artists can often find space to exhibit their work in small local galleries, arts centres and community art spaces as they grow their portfolios. This sharing can lead to further artistic development as artists and members of the public have access to a broader range of artwork to inspire.
In towns and cities up and down the country, councils are increasingly providing space for public art to bring creativity closer to the people. From the classical sculptures and statues that can be found in most towns through to more modern and innovative installations, artwork is moving out of the gallery and onto the streets to increase its connection with peoples’ lives.
In many areas, public art is being created that resonates with the experience of local people in a variety of ways. Sculpture that commemorates events, achievements and local history are particular popular. However, in addition to these, towns and cities are now making public art space available for more contemporary artists using media previously considered to be vandalism. Public mural walls that allow graffiti artists to paint breathtaking multi-coloured works of art that speak directly to people who wouldn’t normally consider themselves art buffs and engage on topics that are meaningful to less privileged groups.
In addition to the growing number of municipal galleries offering free access to increase the ability of people to experience art, there are other ways in which individuals can see artwork in their communities. Arts centres and public art bring artwork closer to people and allow individuals to engage with art that is meaningful to them.