There is a need for academic programmes and policies that support the development of performing and visual arts as a foundation for professional careers.
The world is moving towards an intense technological phase of the Industrial Revolution 4.0 pushed along by the disruption brought about by the pandemic. Some sectors such as IT and manufacturing, for instance, can make it a little more easily than others. Then there are those that have always been seen as too old fashioned to be considered millennial skill sectors. The performing and visual arts lead this group. Very few policies address their development; even fewer are the clearly defined opportunities in the commercial world for their growth and enhancement.
The new-age world has recognised the need and significance of ‘design thinking’ in every industry and accepted the idea that ‘design is the universal horizontal across all verticals of industry’ . What we must add to that is that ‘the creative and insightful impulse of the performance arts is what galvanises design and its application’. This is easy to identify and validate.
Every designed product, space and service requires understanding the target consumer and customer. We need to know who we are catering to and how they are likely to receive the design output. Individual personalities and responses flow from deep-rooted cultural identities that influence thought and action. This is exactly what the practice of the arts helps us to both explore and understand.
The challenge in today’s acquisitive societies is to retain mindfulness as a tool of personality-building. Emotional agility is the key to innovative and adaptive behaviour. This is stimulated by the arts, which stretch our imagination and give us the gift of practice sessions on real-life situations. Leadership, teamwork, innovative thinking, imagination building and future orientation are gifts from the world of theatre; rhythm, resonance, harmonised movement and agility are the traits from dance and the exploration of cultural expression, emotions and moods is inherent in music. Each trait is indispensable in today’s world, especially as laid bare by the pandemic. Those who survived did so because they could engage in simultaneous thought and action, much like a well-orchestrated dance piece.
The race to excel in the world of science and technology and the need to seek returns on effort, however, has left society with the impression of redundancy in the practice of the arts. Yet, the relevance in terms of individual development and progress is matched equally by the contribution in terms of financial returns and commercial viability. Here’s a look at the numbers and the role of the creative arts in nation-building and economy.
Potential for growth
Several key reports indicate that the role of the creative and cultural sector in the economy has taken on a great deal of significance, as it affect and influence vibrant and high potential sectors such as tourism and advertisement. India’s Travel & Tourism GDP contribution grew by 4.9% in the FY 2019 and, with the Government working to achieve 2% share by 2025, the sector is wide open for input from the cultural and creative sectors.
The media and entertainment sector is a sunrise sector for the Indian economy, backed as it is by enhanced advertising revenue and increased consumer demand in the post-pandemic scenario. Electronic media, gaming, electronic music production, digital advertising, animation, and radio offer opportunities not only for the visual arts but also for those who are fortified by the knowledge of the performing arts and the entire support infrastructure of production and presentation. Growing rapidly at almost 3.25% CAGR, this sector is a rapid riser in the charts of the GDP. While the projections are very encouraging, the need right now is to recognise this potential and gear our students towards this industry so that the opportunities offered are also realised and fulfilled.
Several institutions have geared segments of their offerings towards the performing and visual arts. The need is for a market-oriented, multi-disciplinary, management-inclusive programme that will equip students to operate across sectors and a national policy that supports the creative and cultural arts as a backbone of professional capacity across the industry. Hopefully that too will emerge in the wake of the Skill India, Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat initiatives.
The writer is Dean School of Performing Arts, World University of Design