Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pathways to Sports and Arts Success

During the Post Mortem phase of the Olympic Games there has been a lot of discussion about why some sports do better than others.

In the discussions the word “Pathways” is sometimes used.   The thinking goes something like this:  If young people do not have exposure to a sport ( start of the  ‘pathway’), we will never know if they are good or not  or if they are going to be a champion or an Olympic Games medal winner.

The discussions here are particularly in relation to swimming and athletics that were often taught at school.  They also involve discussion of the sports where we did well. Those for New Zealand were rowing and yachting and Kayaking. These sports do have well established well organised infrastructure with clubs and coaches at junior level and then those who are good are nurtured thus emerging elite sports people.  There is an established and effective Path, from first learning the sport to achieving at the games.   

My experience has been with the arts, rather than sport, but the same applies.    If people are not exposed to the arts, particularly the craft arts, music and dance, how will we know who will be our next Icon artists?
I think particularly of Glass and Ceramics, but also Sculpture, film and Fabric, music and dance arts.    Most of these art forms were in the past funded from Community Education courses and many people attended.  The community education courses also provided funding for small orchestras, Jazz groups and craft arts.   With the cuts to community education these course have been cut or consolidated with little funding and in “hubs” which do not acknowledge transport links or cost.  

In Otaki for example, where I know the Pottery Club. That Club had to change from a community educational group into an Incorporated Society and almost immediately the only a few new people joining. The cost of running the club and the private funding of courses was only for those who can afford the $100 plus dollars for a course, or who were already good enough to sell some product.  

In the Community Education Classes of the past there were young people, refugees, Maori and Pacific Island students. These groups have stopped coming and with that we are losing the potentially high performance artists among them.     Dance, Music and Singing are most often now taught by private dance teachers, and choirs again, are no longer open to everyone.   The cost of a young person learning the violin or cello, or becoming a top ballet or jazz dancer is totally in the hands of parents who can afford the fees.     The Pathway has been closed, with no new or diverse people learning the skills there will in a few years time no excellent artists.   You have to start somewhere and if that start is too expensive then the only people attending are comfortably off middle class.

I gather this is the same as with sport.    Access to the Arts and Sport is a right that goes with being an active member and part of a community, so why have we changed the goal posts and made the arts and sport accessible only to the few and excluding opportunity for many whose talent lies unnoticed?  Surely we should make programmes available for little or no cost.  Then we will have the Pathway that is needed for success.
Just one other comment from my own experience.  I have spent much of my adult life working in prisons and correctional facilities and have been in awe of some of the work by prison artists.  I can’t count the number of times a prison artist said to me “I had never done art/ sculpture/ ceramics till I came to prison.”     They then learn quickly and become excellent.   They also suggest that if they had learnt to be an artist at school they might not have ended up in prison.     Given the cost of prison per offender or prisoner the opportunity cost of spending money on sport and arts at the basic level should not only save money spend in crime, but also provide positive Pathways to high performance.

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