Isolation in the arts

According to a recent study bullying may be more common in the arts than in the army. An eye opening suggestion I came across in one of Lyn Gardner’s theatre blogs on The Guardian this week. This will possibly come as a surprise, I don’t know. There are two stereotypical views of arts people, one is the lovely if slightly ditsy artist, the other is a moody megalomaniac perfectionist. One lends themselves slightly more towards the bullying thing than the other.

Both of those are – as stereotypes – hugely blown out of proportion but there are elements of truth in both I suppose. People working in the arts have to work, often very closely, with others – their peers. Sometimes you will be working with people who are in direct competition with you. You have to at one and the same time embrace the collaborative nature of creating work and making things happen whilst ruthlessly fighting your own corner in order to get any kind of foot through the door. This is just from an outsider’s perspective, I imagine once you’ve fought your way in the struggle only intensifies.

The arts world is rife with insecurities – big egos and big insecurities all bundled up into one messy (often) person. No wonder bullying is so big, it’s easy. I in no way condone its happening but I do totally understand it. It’s an extremely competitive and intense world, plus its an isolated world to begin with. Not only are you pretty much by yourself within the arts world but, in our society, to express a desire to be in this world is generally isolating yourself from the world the rest of society inhabits. You are kicked into your corner by society, then further hounded down by those who are supposed to support you in your chosen world to inhabit.

I wonder, would bullying in the arts be lessened if support for the arts from the wider society grew? If funding and audiences etc weren’t so scarce, would it be a friendlier environment?

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