Is art still accessible?

horse riding statue in front of the gallery of modern arts i glasgow scotland Photo by Elena Golovchenko on

With the cost of living ever increasing, it seems like art and culture are slowly being cut out of people’s lives. What does this mean for our future?

By Zara Grew (she/her)

Glasgow is a city filled with art. From galleries to gigs, it is a cultural hub which continues to evolve. However, this evolution comes at a price as we are now seeing cuts to funding and the cost of living taking its toll. For many students and young people art can feel like a luxury. Arts and cultural activities are the first to go when choosing how to budget on a low income. Moreover, pursuing a career in the arts feels even more out of reach as young people are battling with the competitive and oversubscribed job market.

This summer, Glasgow has seen some very exciting cultural moments such another successful TRNSMT festival, the V&A’s Mary Quant: Fashion Revolutionary at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and the much-awaited Banksy: Cut and Run exhibition at the GOMA. While it is exciting for there to be so much to do in the city, it poses the question of who can participate in the events which seem to be marketed to all. While the GOMA and Kelvingrove Art gallery are free for general access, they charge for tickets to exhibitions and even with a concession discount you would be paying between £6.50- £10 to attend exhibitions. This may not seem like a huge amount, but to a person struggling to make ends meet it could mean they are excluded from cultural spaces. With the reimposition of a £6.6 million cut to arts funding confirmed last week, it is no wonder things seem bleak for students and young people who are interested in the arts.

The cuts to funding and lack of opportunities are very real issues for young emerging artists who are struggling to fund their passion. In conversation with Lewis Macpherson, a student who is living in Glasgow and the guitarist in local rock band Yellow Helen, we discussed the inaccessibility of the industry and the expectation on upcoming artists to play gigs for exposure rather than payment: “It seems, at this point, you do have to be somewhat privileged to engage in art, especially full time. We’ve all definitely sunk more money into the band than we’ve ever made from it. We’ve played gigs for free or had to chase people up for ages for pennies. It is a struggle sometimes, and there are millions of great artists out there (better than me) who are simply being shut out from that world. And the cuts are just salt in the wound”.

Despite the difficult situation which is facing the arts in Glasgow, there are still ways you can access the arts on a budget and enjoy cultural experiences in the city. Some top picks include the free exhibition ‘A Quiet Fire’ by Malawian artist Billie Zangewa which is currently housed at Tramway and an excellent variety of free to attend independent zine launches hosted by Glasgow Zine Library. As well as this, local groups and collectives are making practicing art more accessible. Wild and Kind Studios are offering ‘pay what you can’ arts and crafts workshops and hangouts, proving that art can be explored and enjoyed in the community. The Glasgow arts scene is flexible and ever changing and as costs rise, we could see a shift away from conventional methods of consuming and creating art to a more grassroots and community-based future.