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The Personal is Statistical: Why the arts matter

Posted on 07 February 2018 by Emma Bowey, Graphic Designer .
Tags: The Personal is Statistical, Understanding Society, schools

In our monthly series, The Personal is Statistical, we'll be talking about where statistics have interacted with our personal lives. They are a bit different from the blogs we usually post, but we hope you'll enjoy reading them. In this blog, Emma Bowey reflects on the importance of the arts. 


Emma Bowey

Seeing as I’m a Graphic Designer, it’s not much of a surprise that I love the arts.

At school, I always enjoyed my art classes more than most of my academic ones. I very happily spent hours drawing in sketchbooks, whilst pushing my maths homework to the side and hoping it would conveniently disappear.

Irritatingly I was never much of an illustrator or fine artist, but when I discovered I could create artwork on computers instead, I was hooked. In NatCen’s latest report from the Understanding Society survey, focusing on culture, sport and wellbeing for both young people and adults, it’s encouraging to see that a sector like computer arts, that for so long had the reputation of being a boys club, is now attracting equal numbers of school-age boys and girls.

Despite this, participation in the arts drops off as children get older, and it’s not uncommon for talented creatives to have regrets about not pursuing a career in the arts. There are many different reasons that young people choose a different path. One of these is that the arts still tend to be viewed as a middle-class career option. However, it’s encouraging news that on the whole, household income and ethnicity largely do not form a barrier to arts participation - the only exception is playing a musical instrument.

Arts Fig 1

The arts also have a reputation of being a very competitive industry with roles that lack longevity, so perhaps it’s not that surprising that schools and parents often discourage young people from pursuing creative positions.

Our findings back up the importance of encouragement from household adults. Even only rare encouragement had a significant impact on children’s participation in arts activities. I was lucky - though neither of my parents were artistic they happily bought me paints and displayed my childhood masterpieces on the fridge, and I had a supportive college teacher who made me realise that a career in design was an option for me.

Arts Fig 2 (2)

The study also found a positive link between arts activities and increased wellbeing and self-esteem. I don’t find this surprising at all. The act of working on some kind of creative output can act as therapy, a private brainstorming session, celebrating an achievement, or simply a way to pass the time. I find my personal projects relaxing, and something I can half-concentrate on while catching up on Stranger Things on Sunday evenings.

Arts Fig 3

With studies like Understanding Society showing the important impact of these areas at such a young age, perhaps this will encourage the growth of art, culture and sporting activities, as well as more career opportunities in these sectors.

Whether it's a career choice, a way to unwind, or simply a weekend pleasure, participation in the arts and cultural activities is important, and worth the personal investment of time and energy. I’m one of the fortunate people that get to work in this sector, in a career which allows me to create art I am proud of and enjoy producing. But most importantly, it’s a career which means I hardly ever need to do maths again.


Follow Emma on Twitter: @Emma_Bowey 

Note: All images come from the Understanding Society report on culture, sport and wellbeing.


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