The first was that the creative industries contribute £84bn to the UK economy every year – almost twice as much as manufacturing.
The second was economist Don Thompson’s estimate that for every artist making a living from art, there are 80 who are not.
The third was that making art has positive health benefits.
Despite the proven value of the arts, some people still think they’re useless. Once, when I recommended support for artists’ co-operatives to a London council, councillors said they preferred to aid “real” industries. I pointed out that after making their decision they’d be watching something on TV written and acted by artists, making tea in a pot designed by an artist, drawing curtains decorated by an artist and collapsing into a sofa designed by an artist. You can’t move without encountering the work of artists. Unfortunately, there also are some artists who think that the arts are useless, and object to the idea that they might have economic value or to the concept of creative industries. That attitude doesn’t help the arts.
As the arts have health benefits, they’re actually worth more than £84bn when you add on the health savings and increased productivity. (The Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing is investigating the contribution of the arts to health and social care.) And the value of other industries – say, financial services – has to be corrected by subtracting the cost of stress and illness.
Since the arts contribute to the economy and wellbeing, it’s crazy for the government to downgrade them in education. But if so few artists make a living, are we educating too many of them? If you want to guarantee a job in your degree subject, study dentistry or nursing. Perhaps we are educating too many artists, but perhaps there’s also something wrong with the content of arts degrees.