UK museums ask for children to inspire action through art

Hundreds of thousands of children will create wildlife artworks at 500 UK museums to raise their awareness of the threat to nature and the environment.

FKA Twigs is one of the artists who will then recreate the children’s pieces for a mass digital artwork.

The Wild Escape will be the largest ever UK museum project.

It is inspired by BBC One’s new series Wild Isles with Sir David Attenborough, which will show how important UK nature is to the world.

Dr Philip Wheeler, senior lecturer in ecology at The Open University, and co-producer for the series, which launches later this year, told BBC News: “I hope the public interest this series generates will give wildlife in Britain and Ireland the boost it urgently needs.”

The Art Fund, a national arts charity, began developing the project more than two years ago in response to the lack of connection between young children and the environment during Covid.

Every primary school age child is invited to create their own art from the museums’ collections of wildlife through specially hosted activities. It is hoped that as children learn more about wildlife and the environment they will be inspired to work to protect it in the future.

The UK is currently in the bottom 10% of countries globally when it comes to protecting biodiversity.

The Natural History Museum, which hosted the launch of Wild Escapes on Tuesday, created a Biodiversity Intactness Index in 2020 and revealed that the UK only has 50.3% of its biodiversity remaining – compared to nearly 90% in Canada.

Rosalind Mist, director of education and youth engagement at WWF – which is supporting Wild Escapes – said: “Across the UK, and in the UK nature is on its knees.

“It isn’t too late to turn things around, and young people are key to shaping the future of the natural world.”

Adult greenfinch sits on a branch in Norfolk shaking its feathersIMAGE SOURCE,MIKE POWLES
Image caption,

More than 40 million birds have disappeared form the UK since 1970, placing birds like the greenfinch under threat of extinction

At least 500 museums have signed up to the scheme from across the UK – from the Natural History Museum in London up to the West Highland Museum in Fort William.

In Hastings, Bright Foundations will provide children with natural materials found in their 24 acres of land to create their own wildlife sculptures.

At Gallery Oldham in Manchester sculptor Ruth Moilliet will host workshops for local primary schools to create artworks of endangered flowers using re-used plastic.

Major established artists including Es Devlin, FKA Twigs and Mark Wallinger, a Turner Prize winner – will then take inspiration from the children’s work to create new art pieces which will be launched on Earth Day on 22 April.

Speaking to the BBC at the launch, FKA Twigs said: “I think that children have the most amazing minds.” She said she was glad “to be a small part of inspiring children to connect to nature, to connect to creepy crawlies and furry animals”.

Artists as part of the Wild Escapes project look at a display at the Natural History Museum with a group of primary school childrenIMAGE SOURCE,PA MEDIA
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Back: Artists FKA Twigs (second left), Es Devlin (second right) and Mark Wallinger (right) help children draw at the Natural History Museum on the launch day

Short films will be created showing the artists at work and will be hosted by BBC Bitesize, a free study resource the BBC provides to children.

Errol Reuben Fernandes, head of horticulture at the Horniman Museum – which won 2022 Museum of the Year and is taking part in the programme, said museums also need to “use their collections to inspire children to get out”.

To support this endeavour Jenny Waldman, director of the Art Fund, said many of the museums are partnering with local gardens and RSPB nature reserves to encourage children to learn more about the UK’s nature as well as to draw it.

FKA Twigs said that this part of the project will also help children with their mental and physical wellbeing.

Studies by Natural England and leading UK universities have shown that visiting nature once a week has a positive impact on people’s health and the way that they treat the environment.

Two women in the Horniman GardensIMAGE SOURCE,AMAAL SAID
Image caption,

Head of Horticulture at Horniman Museum, Errol Fernandes, said they are increasing biodiversity across the museum’s 16.5 acre-garden for the project

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