I go to museums a lot; it’s part of Arts Council keeping fully in touch with what’s happening around the country. But Friday was unusual even for me. I visited all eight Cambridge University museums and galleries in a single day: an exhausting, inspiring whistle stop tour.
When I arrived at the Arts Council a little over two years ago, I discovered (with some alarm!) that I was going to be the Executive Board member with responsibility for Goal 1, for ensuring that ‘excellence is thriving and celebrated in arts, museums and libraries’. Who was going to determine what was ‘excellent’ – our arts and cultural leaders? The professional critics? …Me? Would it ever be possible to agree within the Arts Council – let alone amongst arts and cultural organisations – what are the key determinants of ‘quality’?
It’s now been a week or so since we announced our decisions on National portfolio organisations and Major partner museums. We’ve had many reactions, as you’d imagine.
When you are making these kinds of announcements a press conference or in a blog, you have to think very quickly.
Reflecting on the process, and talking to people who’ve been on the receiving end of these decisions, I find myself wanting to share one or two thoughts I was unable to dwell on at the time.