Art's Accessibility / by Jeannine Cook

Back in March 2009, famed art and culture critic and enfant terrible Dave Hickey wrote a long piece in Art in America about "Addictions". In it, he said that "in the last two centuries, the opportunity to make good art and literature has continuously expanded... In response to this broadening franchise, elite cultures have striven to defend their domain by escalating the level of 'difficulty' demanded from serious art and literature. The larger the field of runners, in other words, the higher the hurdles. Two centuries of expanding opportunities confronted by an escalating standard of difficulty have led to this consequence: today, anyone can make a work of art that nobody can understand..." He ended a long plaint about the opacity of many contemporary works, the suspicion that greets any efforts to explain such works, and even the dulling and homogenising effect of art school curricula with a plea to bring "the fire from wherever you find it to an art world that needs it."

Amongst the proliferating world of blogs about art and websites promoting every imaginable form and aspect of art, there is a new endeavour which brings more "fire" into the public discourse about art. Today, PBS announced the launch of a new website, PBS Arts, to diffuse to new audiences their work on visual arts, crafts, architecture....

It seems that the more the arts are "de-funded" by government, the more Public Radio and Public Television are taking up the challenge of informing the nation about artistic endeavours, accessible or opaque in nature. Awareness of what is happening in music, visual art, theatre, poetry, literature, crafts and architecture enriches us all, even if the coverage is, inevitably, only a small proportion of what is happening nationwide. Learning about the arts of today renders them much more accessible and interesting to everyone, negating to a degree the controlling influence Hickey ascribes to the "elite". There is another aspect of this wider accessibility: seeds are sown in people's minds which lead, later, to deeper interest and knowledge about the arts in many instances. More fire in the art world ...