We all need art in our lives

May 11, 2018

Homage to Leger - Contrast of Forms with old petrol tank and rubble. Circa 2018.

Out here in the artless heart of lawnmower land, it’s not often a windfall lands in your lap in the form of free money.

But with easy money comes hard choices.

I’m torn between spending my federal budget $10 tax cut on two more strong coffees a week, buying two more kilograms of chicken necks for the dogs — or giving it to the Shepparton Art Museum Foundation to help with the removal of those ugly petrol tanks.

On the other hand, those big gnarly tanks could make wonderful art installations for an opening exhibition titled something like ‘Grumpy Old Men at The End of the Industrial Age’.

Despite foundation works for the new art museum pressing ahead at the former Shell servo site, there are still grumblings from diehard no-nonsense types who consider art an indulgence that a struggling backwater like Shepparton can ill-afford.

There are those who say they have never been into an art museum or gallery in their life, and have no intention of ever setting foot in one even if it occupies a highly visible site in the centre of Shepparton, has good coffee, and no entrance charge and promises uplifting, curious and educative experiences.

Art to these people is something utterly remote like Easter Island with weird unexplainable statues made by aliens called artists.

They have no need of art.

It has absolutely no place in their waking life or in their dreams.

Or does it?

I often wonder if these people have anything on the walls of their lounge room or kitchen.

Do they go to the movies or listen to music?

Do they read books?

Do they ever look at a sunset or up into the night sky and wonder why?

Do they ever want to say something but can’t find the words?

If they do any of these things — they are being arty farty.

Art is all around us — not just in galleries.

A gallery is just a focal point and a place for discussion about the big things we experience but don’t fully understand in our daily lives, such as love, justice, fear, dreams, sex, violence, madness laughter, death and tax cuts.

These things are felt by everyone — even the grumpy arm folders.

Some tax or ratepayers’ money goes into art palaces. A lot more goes into sports palaces.

I don’t play sport, but I don’t begrudge some of my money going towards its palaces because that is what living in a community means — allowing everyone their space and freedom to spend time and money doing what they want as long as it doesn’t deprive anyone else.

Which brings us back to tax cuts.

Will my $10 create more jobs, or will it deprive a homeless person or a motherless child of enjoying their space and freedom?

The government thinks if I spend $10 wisely it will help everyone.

I might buy a paint brush.

John Lewis is chief of staff at The News.

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