Whitechapel education centre The Cass, part of London Metropolitan University, has been taken over by an interactive exhibition designed to defend the importance of the arts to society.
Curated by the artist Bob and Roberta Smith in partnership with the arts mentoring charity Arts Emergency, the exhibition was set up to raise awareness of the critical challenges facing the arts, and those young people hoping to study them.
Says Smith: “Since the coalition came into power in 2010 there has been concern that the arts are diminishing within the school curriculum and that the arts have suffered a disproportionate cut in government funding.
“We are bringing together many of the organisations who have actively engaged with this issue. The bottom line is art and culture should be available to everyone, from all backgrounds.”
Visitors to the Arts Emergency Response Centre can pick up a prescription for something to make, see or do. They can also claim an ‘Arts Emergency Kit’ featuring advice from high-profile names including Jarvis Cocker, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Samantha Morton, Richard Herring and Vampire Weekend.
A series of ‘clinics’ situated throughout the gallery space have also been organised, with contributions from Q Art, The National Association of Educators in Art and Design (NSEAD), Craftivist Collective, Bow Arts and Deptford X, amongst others.
The colourful space is also populated by artworks including Bob and Roberta Smith’s historic letters to Michael Gove and Nicky Morgan. In addition, Artists’ Union England are screening a film of a recent hustings featuring shadow arts minister Chris Bryant MP and Conservative MP for Folkestone Damien Collins.
Opportunities in the arts
Arts Emergency was set up in 2013 and involves pairing disadvantaged teenagers with ‘mentors’. They give advice, open doors to opportunities and generally share their experiences.
Neil Griffiths, co-founder of Arts Emergency, hopes the exhibition will increase support for the charity: “We are a small community group of around 250 people. Each donate about £7 a month. To put it simply, we need more investment to continue our good work.”
The exhibition has already raised the organisation’s profile. “The response has been amazing,” says Griffiths. “We’ve had lots of visitors so far, including some high-profile names like Jeremy Deller.
“Essentially we are fighting the entrenchment of privilege in the arts and humanities. The more people we get involved the better.”
Arts Emergency Response Centre continues at The Cass, Whitechapel, London E1, until 2 May. More details