Why do we open our studios?

I’m so excited! I have tickets for the Grayson Perry show in Edinburgh. Perry is a hero of mine in the world of art for two reasons: he is known for ceramics and textiles (my main loves), and he can express complex ideas in an accessible way, showing great eloquence and humour. He is one of those makers we feel we have met – even if we haven’t!

I remember being knocked out by a series of BBC Reith Lectures on art and not realising it was him and later when given his book Playing to the Gallery: Helping Contemporary Art in its Struggle to Be Understood (the link is to the independent bookshop.org). Bad me making assumptions about a bloke in a ‘badly’ styled dress! To find his lectures go to BBC iPlayer.

Grayson asks many difficult questions. Why is art not more popular? Is a popular artist a serious artist? What is art? What is good art? He puts interesting questions about how and why art and artists present themselves to the wider population. Of course, many people have difficulty defining themselves as an artist and the phrase “I’m not a serious artist” pops out all too easily. I’m not at all clear what ‘serious’ means – is it about income, is it about time spent, is it about frowning while you do it?

If we are going to understand our relationship with society, we are going to have to understand some of the answers. As Grayson says, “it’s as though we cannot enjoy certain artworks if we don’t have a lot of academic and historical knowledge.” The irony is that the ”I’m not an arty person”, or the one with no time or interest in art, also buys T-shirts, greetings cards, mugs, etc., just perhaps not paintings in gold frames.

I agree that Joe or Joan Bloggs can easily feel insecure around art and its appreciation. Certainly, large numbers of people don’t encounter artists, otherwise we would be absolutely overwhelmed by people wanting to ‘meet the maker’ or visit a studio. I wonder just how accessible we really are to our communities?

By opening our studios, we are making art and artists more accessible; that is the point of the theme of ‘meet the maker’. I know many of you will judge (and indeed may need to judge) the success of the Festival to be counted by sales. However, by looking at footfall and conversations, we can judge whether we are making a difference to our community and society. How many people will leave your studio understanding that anyone can enjoy art, and anybody can have a life in the arts?

Do tell.

Best wishes,
Heather

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