Exeter needs art. In fact, all communities do and, during an event like AWE, we should perhaps take stock of why we do all indeed need art around us.
Now, this isn’t where I launch into a deep philosophical essay in defence of art’s historical development and place through millennia. But it is where I mention a few obvious and rational reasons why we’re pleased to see Art Week Exeter take place and are very happy to support it.
The reasons are numerous and, for me, obvious.
First up: wellbeing. Research conducted by Arts Council England indicates that subjective levels of wellbeing are generally reported to be higher in those with higher levels of arts and cultural engagement. This is supported by the statistic that nearly 60% of people are more likely to report good health if they have attended a cultural place or event in the last 12 months - so you had better visit at least one AWE exhibit!
Next: society. In contrast to what some have said, society does exist and it benefits in particular from arts and cultural activities. Participation in such events reduces social exclusion and isolation, and encourages community engagement. For example, secondary school students who engage in the arts at school are twice as likely to volunteer than those who don’t, and also 20% more likely to vote as young adults .
Third: Putting Exeter on the cultural map. Great food, drink, people, sport, countryside - there’s loads to be proud of in Exeter and we think AWE adds art to city’s existing cultural offering. In 2011, VisitBritain reported that nearly 10 million visitors to the UK involved cultural engagement, which accounted for almost 50% of all inbound tourists. Wouldn’t it be nice for Exeter to gain a greater share of that!
Finally, and sorry to bring it back to business, but art drives creativity, creativity drives innovation and innovation drives opportunities. Exeter, renowned as it is for having one of the region’s strongest and most active professional service sectors, isn’t well known for its creative sector. And this needs to change. AWE, in combining many of Exeter’s cultural highlights into one intense art party, magnifies our city’s creativity - and we know what that drives.
It’s for each of these reasons (plus others not mentioned to keep this post short) that McQueenie Mulholland is supporting Art Week Exeter, and we encourage all in and around our community to do so too.