No. 4 | There’s nothing like the real thing

26 May 2021

To the left is a photo of John Studzinski, sat in an audience. He is wearing a black jacket, a white shirt and a red tie. He has short grey hair, and is leaning forwards slightly, talking to the person sat next to him. To the right of the image is a white background with black text saying 'John Studzinski - Philanthropist's View. A blog series to stimulate debate and ideas. No. 4: There's nothing like the real thing. May 2021'

Cautiously, but optimistically, the UK is re-opening. After another long lockdown we’re starting to get back to ‘real life’ – or at least we hope so.

Over the past year, putting safety first, we’ve had to learn to compromise … Seeing people we care about on Zoom rather than in the flesh … Cooking and ordering in rather than going out … Staying glued to our small screens for our culture and sport, unable to share our enthusiasm in a public space.

Our options still remain limited, but in those distant days before the pandemic, perhaps we were taking some of our privileges for granted.

I remember visiting the Tate Gallery a couple of years ago. In each room I saw people standing in front of famous paintings and excitedly taking selfies. They seemed more concerned about impressing their Instagram followers than connecting with a great work of art.

Surely, once you’ve made the physical effort to visit a museum, a theatre, a concert hall or an opera house, you should focus on doing justice to creative and performing artists. It’s about respecting their talent, their skill and – when it all really comes together – their genius. In a kind of alchemy, the atmosphere of the venue and the energy of the people around you also come into play, taking you to a higher plane.

Ultimately, this kind of visceral and spiritual experience of art can prove indelible. After a year within our own four walls, isn’t it what we are craving? The Genesis Foundation is counting down eagerly to its first live event of 2021, a concert of music and words inspired by the thoughts of St John Henry Newman. We have no doubt that it will prove memorable for the socially distanced audience at Farm Street Church in Central London on 10 June. In a slightly different way, it will offer something exceptional to audiences  around the world, thanks to a live stream on Classic FM’s website.

Throughout the pandemic, many artists have continued to find ways to express themselves and to seek and satisfy audiences. They have demonstrated resourcefulness and resilience to match their creativity. Sadly, they have frequently been working for minimal or no financial reward.

In our digitised world, we’ve become used to getting art cheaply or for free. We must remember that artists are professionals who deserve proper payment for their work. This is not just a matter of their livelihood, but of their dignity: we must show them real gratitude for their continuing contribution to the quality of our real lives.

Read other posts in the John Studzinski: The Philanthropist’s View series