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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 May, 2005, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
South: Eye of the beholder
Peter Henley
Peter Henley
Political Editor BBC South

Land Sea Light Koan
'Land Sea Light Koan' is controversial

The 27ft tall multi coloured cone was meant to provide the element of calm at the entrance to the Isle of Wight's new Hospital.

The sculpture, Land Sea Light Koan by the American artist Liliane Lijne, was meant to be illuminated at night and to revolve, but within nine months of being installed at St Mary's Hospital, Newport it had broken down.

Islanders drew up a 2,000 name petition demanding its removal. Islanders would rather the money had been spent on healthcare. But it remains.

The Arts Council, which provided the bulk of the funding together with the National Lottery, told the trust that if the sculpture were removed, it might want its 31,000 grant back.

But at least they were trying to put art where the public would appreciate it. Every year Art like this receives financial support from the taxpayer.

But very few taxpayers come along to enjoy it.

Hidden Art

Tucked away in galleries, or playing to small houses the public pay for something they are not getting.

The Arts have seen a huge increase in funding under Labour.

Funding for the Arts Council rose from 186m to 414m - a real terms increase of 120% compared to a rise of just 20% in the eight previous years.

The South of England is being branded as The Cultural Cornerstone. An area where Cultural and creative industries employ 125,000.

From museums, galleries and libraries to the hi-tech world of computer arts and design.

Tim Craven
Tim Craven: Art is central to civilisation

Arts funding

Southampton Art Gallery has an incredible selection of international masterpieces, but lacks the public funding to put them on wider display.

Curator Tim Craven says: "The British have never valued the Arts highly.

"Across the Channel in France and Spain and Italy they pump a lot more public money into art. It is seen as central to civilisation"

There is a culture gap. As SEECC - the Consortium set up by the government to promote Arts in the South East - puts it:

"The concept of culture in the context of public policy and investment is an uncomfortable one.

"It can carry centralising, patronising and restrictive connotations."

Basingstoke: Public art feeds the soul?

Public Art

So in towns like Basingstoke there is a drive for public art to re-invigorate places that can feel soulless.

Local and central money subsidising art that reaches people where they work and shop.

The buzzword is inclusion. Focussing Arts money on a wider group of consumers.

Broadening the cultural agenda, encourages minority as well as majority interests and avoids elitism.

But much within the arts world is all about elitism. The quest for the best. Ensuring Cool Britannia keeps the rest of the world on its toes.

And broadening the agenda can easily become dumbing down.

Artistic agenda

Is Art going in the right direction? Are we spending to much or not enough on a benefit that is difficult to quantify?

Perhaps it is a problem of education. Making sure more people "get it."

But schools no longer include Art, Music and Drama in the core national curriculum.

The Cass Sculpture Park at Goodwood has 26 acres of Art worth 6m.

It is a private collection that does not get a penny of public money, and yet it is open free to children, and has an extensive educational programme.

Is Funding fair? Is there a simpler solution than central or regional funding?

Should we follow the USA and adopt a system of tax incentives, leaving the rest to private enterprise?

Politics Show

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