Galway has a reputation as being a city that loves the arts. With our local economy depending so much on tourism, there has always been a mutually supportive relationship between local business and the arts community. Galway has become a candidate city to host the 2020 European City of Culture and this shows just how much of a cultural hub the city has become. The city thrives on the energy created by the influx of visitors who are attracted to the many festivals we have here during the year. Cultural tourism is central to the life of the city. And so it can only be a bad thing for Galway that arts funding is being cut. Even though arts organisations bring money into the local economy by organising events which attract tourists, they themselves depend on public funding to function. We are facing a more energy-constrained future, and this may result in further cuts in funding for the arts. If we want to avoid this happening, it is vital that we view arts and culture as central to our lives, rather than extraneous, and that we continue to value those arts organisations that enliven our city.
In this way the transition towards a more sustainable way of living can offer many opportunities to artists. As we develop a greater focus on the local, we can create new ways for creative artists of all kinds, i.e. writers, visual artists, dancers, musicians, traditional artists, etc., to work with and within the community. The challenge will be to ensure that the arts are not forgotten as our economy and way of life changes, but rather that people are given the opportunity to engage with the arts in a deeper and more real way. We may be looking towards a future that is more materially frugal, but it can be one that is richer in other ways. Arts and culture is a different kind of wealth, and it is often overlooked within a value system that puts profit before all else. As we put quality of life and happiness before profit, we will also make space for a re-engagement with our culture. Spaces can be made for members of the entire Galway community to actively participate in cultural events, rather than just be spectators. Even in more constrained times, the arts can thrive.
Creative artists and those involved in arts organisations value the power of the human imagination above all else. This ability to re-imagine the world will become vital as we are forced to adapt to a changing world. Encouraging the creative imagination will help us to look towards this future with excitement rather than fear, and allow us to embrace the new possibilities that a changed world will bring.