Young people need art, like they need broccoli.

Still Life Ingredients  1976 Patrick Caulfield

Still Life Ingredients
Patrick Caulfield

So…do they?

Do young people need art…like everyone needs broccoli?

I could bang for a while about eating our daily greens, getting our five hours culture per week and generally just being better citizens.

But does this help us in advocating for the arts and youth sector?

We are part of a sector struggling to know which types of art are ‘best value’, how much art is ‘good for us’ not to mention when young people fit it into their busy lives, how they pay for it or how much it costs them to even get there.

For 20 years I have known instinctively that offering arts (in all forms) to any people, (young, old, indifferent) can have a significant impact, can change lives, can open a door to something better.

So I did not need to be convinced.

But clearly some people do, and mightily so.

What is the relevant statistic that justifies why we make, force or offer young people the opportunities to do, try or experience art?

Is it 49% will be less stressed? Is it 26% will commit less crime? Is it 78% will have a better, rounded emotionally stable life? Nope.

We don’t have the stat, no one does. Cause it just not that simple.

That’s the problem.

What I do know is the countless examples which have reinforced my belief (yes it is a belief for some) that arts can be useful, fundamental and can change someone’s life for good.

So what? Will they improve their literacy skills? Will it help them get an outstanding job? Will they make a better choice sometime?

Well yes. There is evidence on all counts. But that’s not the only reasons to allow, let or encourage art in.

At the culture counts conference these people said these things:

Baroness Estelle Morris said “we need a stronger narrative about the transformative impact arts can have for children and young people”.

Arts can be useful for its own sake, as an experiential event not just as a learning tool”. Advocated Dr Kevan Collins and artist Bob and Roberta Smith provoked us with “art offers no one answer, it offers another solution”.

We can site extraordinary people working in the creative industries today: director Danny Boyle; musician Damon Albarn; architect Thomas Heatherwick; artist Tracey Emin; numerous world leading games designers. The creative industries make money. Recent CBI numbers say they make up 6% of GDP in the UK, employing over 2 million people.

Now there’s a stat.

Here’s a headline…

Survey shows that in teenage girls self esteem remains constant if they are engaged in some form of artistic participation. If not confidence drops significantly.

So art helps, inspires, improves, gives outlet, de stresses , builds coping strategies, engenders creativity, allows expression, offers employment and careers or is alternative ‘home’ for some  children and young people.

My own two best and most recent examples are these quotes from young people we are working alongside:

    “… this art stuff has offered me so much. I now want to be a youth worker and teach kids how to dance too”.

    “Coming to the sessions here had been like a second home for me.”

These are not stats, but the examples demonstrate significant impact. Working in our sector: arts, youth sector, learning we are all coming across these experiences and these people all the time. We don’t need convinced. But again…some people do.

Are we duty bound to shout the successes? We should be.

Are we duty bound to allow arts in? We do.

Is it time to be again proud of arts and recognise that we can easily access them, that they are just a coach trip away, that they are actually pretty affordable.

Art can and is welcoming people in, beckoning young people in.

So now to make it happen. Phone your local arts centre, gallery, dance space, library, museum. They should help you, they are duty bound to allow young people (all people) space, time and an easy way to art. Without too many added greens.

Judith Merritt
Head of Learning