Why do the arts and culture matter to our society? This is the question that was discussed by a panel at an event hosted by the Exeter University on Monday, March 29. Chaired by the broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, the evening explored the issue of whether the arts outside London are seen as the poor relation and how universities such as Exeter can support the arts and culture in their region.
Speakers from the arts, education and museums highlighted that arts and culture is for everyone, but that class barriers still affected access, which is an area for concern.
It was universally agreed that it is desirable to support the arts as a means of promoting and enabling everyone to live in a good and civilised society. Within this, research-intensive universities have had a role contributing to culture and society within their region.
Research projects in which academics work closely with organisations to share their research knowledge and learn from the organisations they collaborate with were discussed. The panel agreed that academic research can be of vital importance to organisations of all kinds, as well as the community as a whole.
Exeter University academics are currently working on cultural projects with organisations such as Alton Towers, British Library, BT, Network Rail, HM Prison Service and Porthcurno Telegraph Museum in Cornwall.
Professor Helen Taylor, university arts and culture development fellow, explained that Exeter university demonstrates its collaborative relationships with arts and culture organisations and individuals across the South West: “This is a creative campus in a richly creative region. As part of our international as well as local ambitions, we cherish and wish to develop further our research, teaching and outreach relationships with regional theatres, museums, councils and groups.”
The ‘any questions’ about the arts event also launched the Arts and Culture Strategy, which aims to promote the university’s outstanding contributions to arts and culture in Devon and Cornwall and enhance the cultural life of the region. It promotes international cultural relationships through highly ranked arts research and teaching practice and performance.
The university’s staff and students create partnerships and engage with the arts community through galleries, museums, theatres and literature festivals. With its arts and humanities research, and venues such as the Great Hall, Exeter Northcott, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Bill Douglas Centre Museum, Kay House for music, Sculpture Trail, the forthcoming Forum and proposed Environment and Sustainability Institute in Cornwall, the campuses are vibrant centres for art and culture.
Professor Taylor said: “Our art installations, such as the recently commissioned work by architectural glass artist Alexander Beleschenko, are of regional, national and international significance.
“The November 2010 Exeter Children’s Literature Festival which is the opening event for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad ‘WordQuest Devon’ will feature Michael Morpurgo, Michael Rosen and Floella Benjamin. These cultural and artistic programmes contribute to the university’s aim of consolidating its position as a Top 10 UK university and a major world player.”
The panel, chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby, consisted of Professor Geoffrey Crossick (warden of Goldsmith’s, and vice-chancellor designate, University of London), Professor Raj Isar (American University of Paris), Alan Rivett (director, Warwick Arts Centre), Professor Nick Kaye (head of the School of Arts, Languages and Literatures, University of Exeter) and Camilla Hampshire (museums manager, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter).
(from a press release)