‘Studio 2 may be called a community arts centre, but it’s really a hospital for the heart!’

Ollie Green, Artistic Director, Studio 2.
Ollie Green, Artistic Director, Studio 2.

Ollie Green, Arts Director, GSCA/Studio 2, Derry, has been asked to speak at ‘The Big Arts Debate’ based on cutbacks to the arts at Stormont on Monday, February 19.

He has written an opinion piece for today’s ‘Journal’ ahead of the debate on Monday, which is set to highlight the contribution of the arts to life in the North, with a particular focus on government priorities such as economy, health and well being, society and education.

To see is to believe. To witness the transformative power of the arts at first hand is to see a child of any age grow in confidence before your very eyes.

Understanding that a life has changed; that your individual uniqueness has been set free to blossom in the applause, or shine in the silence of attention, or to stand strong with the varnish of creation.

To understand the real value of community arts is to recognise the richness of ‘that moment.’

That one moment that you will treasure all your life, that thing that no bank can ever devalue; when you see the pride in a mammy’s eye, when you felt the truth in a friend’s ‘wow!’

When you punched to air because you knew you nailed it, or felt the joy as you shared in the achievement.

The arts in any form and at any level delivers that potential to inspire that moment. It is unique and different for each of us but is achievable for everyone.

Since Studio 2 opened its doors, we have watched as nervous parents brought their children, some excited, some apprehensive, some withdrawn, and some even full of surface confidence.

They were placing their trust in our promise to care for their wee treasure like it was our own gold, and to encourage and join in the process of polishing their wee diamond, helping each child to grow strong in confidence, become skilled in expression, to value imagination and to glow in the knowledge of how special they are.

Our teachers inspire. They inspire through love, though passion for their art form, through relaying of techniques, through dedication of trying and through the wisdom of encouragement.

And just like in a doctor’s waiting room, each patient is an individual, is different, is special and for each child is a different cure, a cure that arts can bring in abundance, making people feel good about themselves, giving strength and reassurance, telling people it’s good to be different and unlocking their individual creativity in a way that enriches their lives and that of those around them.

In a world of stresses, where austerity means less, it is easy to not take time to put a real value on what the arts means to our society. It is easy for those with cuts to make, or agendas to be filled, to devalue the contribution that the Arts make to the health of our people!

When people ask why support a community arts centre in the heart of Galliagh, a community that has and continues to suffer from the highest levels of social and economic deprivation in the UK and Ireland, I say it’s cheaper than a hospital for one!

And, if as a society we don’t see the value of the arts in all its guises as a major contributor to creating a healthier, happier community in which all our children, regardless of age, colour or social background, can be enriched through engagement in the arts, then we are failing to recognise the most natural cure we have to offer.

In asking people to support the arts in our community and to help Studio 2 to enhance and grow its services, we do so because we have seen at first hand how the arts in all its forms can and does make a difference to people’s lives.