38 / Artists

This post was contributed by my brother.

In 1934 a group of men, mostly miners who were members of their local WEA, decided to hire the academic, Robert Lyon, to answer the question of "What is art?"

In Lee Hall's splendid play, "The Pitman Painters", he amusingly illustrated how Robert Lyon at first spoke about art in a way that had absolutely no meaning for the miners. However, to Lyon's credit, it soon became clear that the best way forward would be to engage the group in picture making, so that they could learn for themselves. He encouraged them to go home and paint what they saw and come back to discuss what they had produced.

To stand in front of their pictures in the Woodhorn Museum Gallery at Ashington is a truly moving experience, not because it is great art, but because their collective work provides a powerful commentary on the world they lived in and about what was important to them. A channel of communication had been opened.

In "The Story of Art" by E.H.Gombrich, he begins with the sentence "There is no such thing as art. There are only artists." This, of course, extends the invitation to everyone to just get on and do it and it is here that we come to the point of this blog post.

In a time of financial restraint, the opportunities for young people to engage in some form creative activity are being squeezed. It is a process that must be resisted by every means possible. The value of creative art is not easily measured, but neglected and a whole realm of human understanding could be lost to a generation, as it was indeed for the mine workers.   

© Edward Bates


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