• Mitch Riley

Creativity and Conservatism


Conservatism (n): “commitment to traditional values and ideas with opposition to change or innovation.”


Creativity is anathema to conservatism. Conservatism seeks to ensure things stay the same. Creation seeks to bring about something new. They are two diametrically opposed impulses.


Many artists do not realise they are conservatives. They want the structure of the industry to remain the way it is. They want to keep making art the way it is being made. They reject the new and seek to escape into the past - a glorified past which never existed.


Artists must be honest with themselves: are our current funding models ensuring a creatively rich, varied, financially accessible arts scene for our communities? Why are we supporting funding models which concentrate the money into select institutions where creative decisions are made by a relatively small number of artists, and where the rest must renounce their own creativity just to earn a living? Why do we accept leaders who view new work (which really means work by our contemporaries - our fellow citizens) with scorn or as not financially viable?

Not financially viable? The creativity of our artists is not financially viable? Our own culture is not financially viable? Can you not see how wrong this is?

It is the heaving, near-paralysed companies and institutions which are not financially viable.


Programming is done in such a way that it is the artworks which support the institution as opposed to the institution which supports the artworks.


The problem isn’t lack of funding or education - these things would make it easier to be an artist, but they are not the source of the problem. The focus has been taken away from the visionaries, the artists who dare to imagine another possible, and given to those who lack imagination or to those for whom art is a personal indulgence. It is us, the artists, who have allowed this to happen.

Creating is hard, it is challenging, nothing is certain and a long period of investment can sometimes end in a bad result. However, creation is the lifeblood of art - it is the only reason we have such a rich and vast canon of past work - and it is at the heart of all change.

Stop asking yourself, “But what will happen to the arts if we stop funding the big companies?”

Turn this question around - what about all the art not being made or supported because of this obscene concentration of resources, and all the possibilities of expression and opportunities of connection within our communities lost because we have sold out our own creativity?

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