In the 2013 film After the Dark, a group of philosophy students are tasked by their teacher to navigate their way through a hypothetical world-ending event. He explains that there is a bunker that will keep them safe and have enough supplies for them to survive for one year, but it cannot fit them all in. Each of the students is given a profession, and it is up to them to select who gets a place in the bunker. As you can imagine, the professions picked were the ones deemed necessary for rebuilding the world. Teachers, engineers, farmers, and doctors were all among the professions selected to enter the bunker, with the fashion designer, chef, actor, and poet all grouped with the professions seen as unnecessary. Each time they went through the thought experiment, a number of different unforeseen factors came up that ultimately resulted in them failing to survive the hypothetical catastrophic event. Infertility, sexual preference, a lack of law enforcement, and disagreements over professional hierarchy all contributed to the chosen group of ideal candidates not surviving one year in the bunker. To cut a long story short, they came to the conclusion that life is far from ideal and there will always be unforeseen factors that need to be navigated, and some are not things that can or need to be fixed. So the final time they went through the task, along with the engineer, the doctor, the teacher, etc., they also chose to include the actor, the violinist, the chef, the poet, the designer, and the dancer. While this seemed illogical, they explained that, should they fail again, they would rather have their final days filled with the things that they believed gave life meaning. So each night, the chef kept bellies full and morale high with well-cooked meals. They were all treated to recitations from the poet, re-enactments from the actor, or musical performances from the violinist. While many would argue that these individuals did not help the team solve the problem of survival, they did help manage one of their biggest problems of all. Themselves. As people, we have far more physical, emotional, and mental needs than just a problem to solve. While a common goal may unite us, it definitely will not sustain us.
When things go wrong and we run out of answers, it isn’t always the text books and calculators that we turn to. Music, works of art, and poetry bring us comfort and help us manage many of the things we cannot rationalise. When the structural engineer signs off on a house, it is the interior designer and/or the owner's own tastes and creativity that go into turning that new property into their home. Imagine wielding the power to enable someone to physically and/or emotionally connect with a space or inanimate object. Imagine being able to evoke certain feelings or take someone back to a particular point in their life by considering their senses and their past. This is the power that creatives can possess. They just need to be shown how. There will always be creative people, and they will all have their own specialties and unique skill sets. Universities and schools are not responsible for creating creative people, but it is creative education that, in many cases, refines their raw ability and lets them know just how powerful they can be and how needed they really are.
It has been an incredibly difficult few years for many sectors, and education is no exception. Unfortunately, Wolverhampton University has found itself in a very unfavourable financial situation, which has resulted in the higher-ups choosing to axe the vast majority of the art and design school, and sadly, this is not a new trend. Creative courses have been the target of governments and school boards for many years now. Seen as the unnecessary fat to cut to help save a quick buck when times get hard, course leaders and teachers are left continually justifying the need for their course. At Goodstart Jones, we will always fly the flag for the importance of creative education, but we do accept that creative courses cost more money to run. While decisions like this make perfect sense to the accountants and governing bodies, the resounding messages they send to your past, present, and future creative students (and lecturers) are that they are expendable and not worth fighting for. This is not the first time we have seen this happen, and sadly, we are sure this will not be the last. As a product of creative higher education, this is a very bitter pill to swallow.