The Arts

Questions regarding the arts provide significant challenges to students as they have rarely given much thought to the impact that the arts have on society. The arts include literature, painting, cinema, sculpture, architecture, fashion and design.
Many students fail to consider that the arts play an important role in challenging commonly held ideas, particularly in fields such as literature and cinema. Great literature challenges the views of society. For example the works of Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo challenged injustice in the 1800’s in England and France, while George Orwell exposed the failures of communism and correctly predicted that it usually leads to totalitarian societies. Vibrant societies almost always have a tolerant and vibrant arts community. For example, the Tang and Song dynasties are often viewed as being the height of Chinese civilisation and these periods were characterised by their art. Similarly, when art and innovation was restricted during the Ming dynasty, Chinese civilisation fell into decline.
Art can directly impact people’s thinking and educated people typically value the arts for this reason. Sometimes they directly address problems in society such as major political and social issues, such as animal rights, the use of torture by governments, homosexuality and gay marriage etc. and sometimes art focuses on relationships and feelings and helps people to understand others better. Although ideas focused art is mainly found in literature and film, there are also examples in other forms of art such as painting and sculpture.
Art also plays a role in creating a desirable and beautiful environment. It plays a role in everyday life with art objects around the home that have a positive impact on wellbeing, particularly psychological wellbeing.
Art also plays a significant role in making public places beautiful and desirable. For example, architecture and sculpture are used to create beautiful public spaces, and are enjoyed by both locals and tourists. Many of the great cities of the world that attract tourists do so because of their art. This art may include paintings (e.g. Paris, Louvre etc.), architecture (Venice, Beijing, Sydney etc.) and sculpture (Xian – Terracotta Warriors, Florence – Michelangelo’s David). This means that art plays a significant role in the economies of these cities because of tourism. Hotels, restaurants, tour operators and other tourism related business benefit from the desirability of cities as destinations. In addition art can also create new industries from small scale “cottage industries” to large industries such as filmmaking. Art also has a role in design and making products desirable.
Most questions about art are focused on whether governments should spend money on the arts, but students should consider how much they should spend rather than just whether the question of whether they should spend at all. In terms of funding the arts it is important to consider that arts do not represent a significant part of a government’s budget. Programs such as defence, education and health use most of a countries budget and therefore having a well-funded arts program often has little impact on other services a country provides.

Topic Vocabulary

Artistic freedom – Artistic freedom is that ability of artists to produce works of art and literature without interference from governments.
Diverse – Diverse can be used to describe societies that contain people with very different views and lifestyles.
Vibrant society – A vibrant society is a one that is rich in culture and full of activity and change.
Psychological wellbeing – Psychological wellbeing refers to whether people are psychologically healthy and whether they happy and comfortable.

Sample Essay – Art and Quality of Life
Some people think art such as sculpture and music cannot improve the quality of people’s lives so the government should not spend money on them but on health and defence. What is your opinion?

Art is a fundamental part of society and should be funded as it enriches lives through beauty and thought provoking ideas. Art presents ideas and objects in new and interesting ways that allow people to think more deeply about the world and appreciate beauty. In addition, Arts funding represents a small fraction of the amount of money spent by governments and does not significantly impact the amount of taxes that need to be collected. In this essay, the value of funding the Arts will be discussed.

Although many pieces of art are derided as being worthless or inaccessible as they include ordinary objects taken out of their normal context or objects that have no obvious meaning, they provoke thinking. People will question artists’ motives, and whether the piece is useful, valuable or beautiful. In more accessible forms of art such as music, literature and painting a story is told and allows us to build empathy with people in different situations and can expose prejudice and injustice. Supporting the Arts therefore improves our thinking and ultimately our society.

A further value of Art is that it brings beauty to public spaces. In many cities around the world people can be seen having their photographs taken with sculptures or architecture. Public art, which is almost always government funded, makes cities more interesting and is appreciated by both locals and tourists. Art attracts people to cities and has economic value. Cities including Cannes and Edinburgh are famous for their arts festivals and draw in enormous numbers of tourists. People also visit many cities for their permanent art collections.

A key consideration for any government is the extent to which it should fund the arts. Almost always, the arts represent a very small proportion of government funding, which is primarily focused on health and education. Therefore, modest funding for the Arts has little impact on taxpayers.

In summary, Art provides a source of beauty and provokes thought and is worthy of funding, particularly as it usually does not represent a significant proportion of government funding.

Essay Notes
This is a question that challenges most students because they have rarely given much consideration to the role that art plays in people’s lives and the wider society. The question presents no particular difficulty except for the final part which questions whether governments should spend any money on the arts. In this part of the question students should be reminded that even when the Arts are well funded, this funding represents an extremely small fraction of government spending which means that there is very little benefit in not having some kind of arts program. Like many IELTS questions, this question uses a non-academic style because it uses “Some people think…” and students should avoid this phrasing as it distances the writer from the ideas being presented.
The opening sentence describes the topic and provides a key reason why funding the Arts is important. The essay has two ideas sentences that logically break the essay into two parts. The first covers how art improves people’s lives and the second explains why governments should spend money on the arts. The final sentence is a thesis statement describing the aims of the essay which is the reasons why funding the arts is worthwhile.
The first body paragraph is very ideas focused and contains no examples. It explains how art adds value to society by contributing ideas and stories while the second paragraph focuses on the second function of art, which is to add beauty to our cities and explains the economic value of art. In this paragraph there are two examples of arts festivals (Cannes and Edinburgh) that add economic value. It is worth noting that the two examples are quite different from one another, one is for film and the other is for live performances and they are situated in different countries. The use of varied examples serves to give the reader the sense that the reader is knowledgeable about the world. The final paragraph focuses on the final part of the question, which is whether governments should provide funding for the arts. It is also worth noting that the ideas around economic benefits at the end of the second body paragraph are related to the question of whether governments should fund the arts. Having these ideas close together allows a link to be drawn between the two parts of the essay, increasing overall cohesion.
A very simple, one sentence conclusion is provided for this essay that uses the phrase “In summary,” to indicate to the reader that the essay is concluding followed be a brief description of the most important ideas.

Essay Vocabulary

Enrich – To make people’s lives richer by providing different experiences.
Thought provoking – To cause people to think about something and come up with new ideas that they had not previously considered.
Inaccessible – Here inaccessible means that people find something or someone hard to understand. It also means that a place is difficult to enter or reach.
Context – Context is the background situation of an event.

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