The Arts Council regards participation in the arts as a core value across all its programmes and addresses the arts and community, disability, cultural diversity, health and older people under this rubric.
While the Arts in Education (see chapter 1.2.6) charter promised initiatives in the domain of relationships between artists, the arts and schools, little has been reported to date.
A conference hosted by CREATE and Voluntary Arts Ireland (October 2011), explored issues of arts practice, policy and inclusion. Broadly, it acknowledged the inhospitable context for arts participation given the uneasy relationship between the state, the market and civil society in Ireland and the considerable challenges this poses in terms of scale and system. It is widely accepted that civil society in Ireland has been disabled by a policy of co-option during the boom years with implications for all aspects of social cohesion, including arts policy. Along with the dangers posed by the current crisis, it underlined the need for new thinking to underpin progress in this domain.
The National Gallery, Irish Museum of Modern Art and National Library and Museum as well as the other national cultural institutions and all arts venues operate a policy of free admission and have education and outreach departments that offer workshops, symposia, in-service teacher training, lectures, resource rooms, demonstrations etc. All the national cultural institutions are now being severely challenged by budget cuts and staffing restrictions: this will inevitably continue to impact on access and outreach policy in the coming years.
The Heritage Council runs a National Heritage Week and a programme of intervention in schools to raise consciousness of the natural heritage.
Annual projects – such as Culture Night when hundreds of cultural and arts organisations open their doors to the public free of charge – function as high profile events that focus on an access agenda. No discussion has yet arisen in Ireland on minimum cultural provision and access to culture nor are there public policies – beyond the aspirational – that explicitly link cultural participation with social cohesion.
The Irish Film Institute Archive acquires, preserves and makes available Ireland’s moving image heritage from 1897. The IFI provides individual viewing facilities as well as screenings from the archive. Audience figures are not available.