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Art History and the future of the arts

man takes photo of Laura Ford art

The Cardiff Contemporary arts festival is currently underway, but the recent dropping of Art History as an A-Level subject casts an uncertain spell over the future of contemporary arts festivals, and art itself.

Car park used as a temporary space for art

All spaces are temporary and, it seems, are all A-level subjects (photo courtesy of Ruth Cayford)

History of Art is being cut as an A-Level subject from 2018. Considered the preserve of private schools, and referred to as a “soft” subject, some may consider the cut as no real loss to education. To those in the art world, it indicates a worrying trend in attitude to the arts from the UK government.

Maia Conran, who is artist-in-residence at this year’s Cardiff Contemporary festival, says that it is a “sad” situation where the less people who study the subject at A-Level means less people studying it at a higher level.

Contemporary art is often seen as fringe to traditional forms of art. Will less people studying History of Art at A-Level mean that the audience for non-conventional forms of art will dwindle? Perhaps not, as there has been an increase in visitor numbers to museums and galleries this year.

“People should sit up and take notice of this decision and consider the implications and reasons behind it.”

man takes photo of Laura Ford art

A member of the public takes a photo of Laura Ford’s exhibition piece (Image by Grafic House)

Maia says that public feedback during the festival has been positive. This is a sentiment shared by Ruth Cayford, manager of Cardiff Contemporary, who says that public reaction has been “fantastic” this year. This arts festival is biennual, but Ruth says making it an annual event is dependent on public demand.

Not everyone involved in the arts sees the cut as a loss. Gareth Pahl, a performance artist, suggests that perhaps people’s appreciation of art comes from the practice of it, not necessarily the study of it. Ruth is less optimistic. She feels this decision will stunt intellectual discourse for future generations, stating that “People should sit up and take notice of this decision and consider the implications and reasons behind it.”

Cardiff Contemporary 2016 Launch Week End from Culture Colony on Vimeo.

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