The Reason We Need Art In Our Schools – David

Did you see Ed Sheeran on television speaking about the arts in schools?  What a breath of fresh air to see someone who gets it, who has some understanding of how art benefits the country financially, culturally and humanly.

Let me explain my background and how I arrived at similar views.

In my teens I trained as an engineer, later for my career becoming a telecoms engineer.  When I was at college I would look at the art students and would think what a waste of money, why not close it down and spend the money on important manufacturing and engineering works, something that would benefit the country.

Relax at Withypool Bridge - Exmoor
Relax at Withypool Bridge – Exmoor

Of course, I have come to understand that this was a very narrow view, but never the less some 40 years later a very popular view among our politicians.

Meeting Melody when I was just 40 has changed my view and given me different insight into the hidden values of art. Ed Sheeran also spoke of the financial returns that art brings to the country, I am somewhat aware of this, but it is not my main concern, it would be interesting to know what the financial benefits are, but not today.

So, what have I seen over my years as a photographer and supporter to Melody?  What I have noted that in general terms when I met people as an engineer I would talk about things, problems and solutions.  We did not enter other areas, who are you, what do you think, how do you feel and so on, these are still areas new to me and still somewhat out of my comfort zone.

What I noticed when I have worked in our gallery or studio is how different the conversations are.  These may be the same people I have encountered in a work environment, but now we are somewhere else, something else is going on and someone I have never known is emerging.

Quite often I have seen people suddenly overcome by emotion, tears appear and somehow or another a few colours on a canvas have connected with their subconscious to expose and perhaps bring healing to troubles and difficulties.  I keep thinking of things as I write this and I am reminded how we were approached by a local hospital to supply art, this wasn’t just to make the place pretty, this was the stroke and dementia ward and studies had shown how important colour is in aiding recovery and healing in these circumstances.

Pink Tarr Steps - landscape painting in oil on canvas
Pink Tarr Steps – landscape painting in oil on canvas

So, what are my thoughts in this?  In very simplistic way I think it is how the brain works, we can view the brain as being two parts, the dominant side which is our day to day and the artistic side, which I think for many if not most is the less dominant.  I am still an engineer and I think things through simplistically, but it seems to describe what I have experienced.

In our day to day we deal with pressure, life, problems, we get up and go to work and it seems our society leaves little space for the artistic and yet to do so leaves us unbalanced measuring ourselves and society against a distorted set of values.  Perhaps there are a lot of issues in this that need exploring, one sees people struggling with stress making ends meet, they are doing all that society demands but never achieve a sense of peace or happiness.

Yesterday I had a funny conversation with Melody, I asked her what she would want to happen if I came home and found a box too big for her to move at the bottom of the stairs.  Her reply is still causing me difficulties to comprehend, she said she was more interested in me being empathic than in getting the box to the top of the stairs.  Of course, my engineering thought is that we need to get the box up the stairs and solve the problem.  Later when she came back in the car with the seat belt not working, we both sat and cried, and I told her how I understood the upset and emotion that this caused when she couldn’t take her mum shopping, she loved it, repairing it was incidental, but it did allow her to go shopping with her mum, Melody wanted me to add that I have embellished this a little we didn’t really cry, well she didn’t.

In another anecdotal way I see it that we are a society that has focused on exercising our right legs while neglecting our left, our society wanders around with a limp always going in circles.  So, like Ed Sheeran I wonder if it is possible for our politicians to get out of the materialistic circle they are forcing us into and to realise that life is about more than this, it is about our care for the society we live and for each other, about service and not just profit about the person and our humanity.

My daughter who did teacher training in Sheffield described how a lesson consisted of 55 minutes of crowd control and 5 minutes of teaching, except when she introduced some element of art when the class would become manageable, surely this must be well known and worth consideration.

So, I do hope his voice is heard and I do hope other artists join in speaking in support of what he has said, and all this comes from a reformed engineer.

Not entirely randomly I have included pictures of bridges, Pink Tarr Steps an ancient clapper bridge on Exmoor, Landachre Bridge a lovely sweeping bridge, both of these by Melody and finally Relax At Withypool Bridge a black and white photograph by me.  All three are bridges over The River Barle and are within a few miles of each other.  I thought mixing pictures by Melody in her colourful arty style and a b&w photo by me in my engineering style symbolised the connection of two sides of the river, the arts and the material world and perhaps they can be linked.

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