Art’s for everyone
- Credit: Archant
Giving more people access to the arts in Suffolk is the aim of a new arts and culture fund launched by Suffolk Community Foundation and High Sheriff Judith Shallow. Andrew Clarke looks at how everyone can benefit
The arts are a vital part of our life. Essential for physical and mental health, social cohesion, community, our sense of self, need for creativity and self expression. They also form an important element of our economy.
At times of austerity, the arts are sadly often seen as a luxury, the thing people can do without. But reducing arts provision is a false economy and is merely storing up problems for later.
The arts can help fight isolation for the elderly, the disadvantaged and the young. They can provide a creative outlet as well as learning opportunities, skills and experience that can be used in other parts of life. The rural nature of Suffolk means that the arts are not always readily available to those living in villages and small towns, or to those without transport.
In her year as High Sheriff of Suffolk, Judith Shallow has decided to do something about this. In conjunction with Suffolk Community Foundation, she has established an arts and culture fund that will provide grants to enable more people to access the arts on both a performance and audience level. It was launched at a recent ‘command performance’ at The Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, which raised £40,000 and helped kick-start the fund. Further events are planned to swell the coffers before awards start to be made some time next year.
Judith, a passionate supporter of the arts and the life-enhancing benefits creativity can bring, said: “It is at times like these, that we do, perhaps, need the arts the most. Dance can be used to build confidence among young people, help mental health sufferers and a wide variety of conditions from Alzheimer’s to autism.
“Music has been proven to help dementia patients reconnect with their past. Comedy can be therapeutic in areas of mental health. Feelings can be uncovered and expressed through painting, drawing, sculpture and many other creative mediums. And drama is often a helpful way to connect with, and provide motivation for prisoners and hard-to-reach young people.
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“Taking the performing arts out into isolated villages and schools is essential in our vast rural county.”
Suffolk is fortunate, says Judith, to have some world class arts providers who are already well placed to help. Meanwhile, Suffolk Community Foundation is building an endowment fund for the county – The Arts and Culture Fund – that will grow and provide substantial grants that aim to ensure everybody has access to the arts, wherever they live in Suffolk.
Tim Holder, development director of Suffolk Community Foundation, says the beauty of the scheme is that it is available to young and old and in all parts of Suffolk – both rural and urban.
“The arts are not only preventative medicine but restorative. It seems to us that the government is expecting all elements of the voluntary sector to be supported by private funding. Austerity shows no sign of going away. If you sit on grants panels, as I do, assessing the merits of various applications and you’ve got a piece of funding required to support children suffering from effects of domestic violence or sexual abuse, it’s hard to say no. We felt that as more money was needed for hard-hitting concerns, arts and culture applications were slipping down the priority list. The best way to give them a fair share of the funding pie was to create a specific fund for community arts projects.”
The High Sheriff’s arts fund will be a grant-making device and funding funnel that will collect and administer a wide range of donations and bequests.
“People making donations and bequests can specify exactly how their money is awarded and the beauty of the fund being administered by the Suffolk Community Foundation is that we can embrace all the organisations in Suffolk. So if someone, for example, wants to provide young people with access to classical music we can make sure that happens right across the county rather than just in one or two areas.”
Judith Shallow has a long connection with the Suffolk Community Foundation and one of the duties of the High Sheriff, as patron, is to establish a charitable fund, which continues to benefit the county after the term of office is over. The foundation is looking for ambassadors to highlight the work of the fund, the need for arts in the community and the high quality work being created in Suffolk.
“It doesn’t have to be anything huge. It may just be that a village hall or community centre needs a lick of paint or some new curtains for the stage, or money for seating for the audience.
“This fund is about helping people come together to do a tap class or painting, for example, but it’s also about allowing people to discover their creativity, giving them an opportunity to find out who they are, giving them a creative voice while providing therapy to enable them to endure difficult times.” The Suffolk Community Foundation provides a mechanism to ensure that funds are widely and fairly shared.
“One couple were finalising their will and wanted to leave a bequest, but were delighted there was someone who could administer the funds appropriately.” Tim encourages donors to come forward and make their requirements known.
“If you have a love of the arts and want to promote access to painting, theatre or different types of music, or want to establish a knitting circle then come and talk to us. Don’t wait until you’re gone and trustees are trying to second-guess your wishes – tell us exactly what you want and we will help make it happen.”
Further details about the work of the Suffolk Community Foundation and the Arts and Culture Fund can be gained from the foundation’s web-site