Launched this week by the UK’s leading arts charity, Art Fund, The Wild Escape project is on a mission to allow children to imagine the future of the UK’s wildlife, with the art and objects in museums, galleries and historic houses as inspiration.

Art Fund’s latest initiative takes inspiration from Wild Isles, an upcoming David Attenborough-fronted BBC series exploring the flora and fauna of the UK.

With museums, historic houses and galleries as hosts, children will be tasked with searching for animals that might be on display, to be inspired by exhibitions featuring nature, or even outdoor spaces, and to respond with their own art.

These resulting artworks will be compiled into a collective piece that will be unveiled online and in museums on Earth Day 2023, Saturday 22 April to coincide with nationwide celebrations.

More than 500 museums and venues in the UK are taking part, and include Compton Verney, a historic manor in Warwickshire, which will focus on families with children aged 7 to 11 years old.

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The exterior of Compton Verney House

Its Fundraising Manager explained: “We have chosen the dragonfly as our favourite animal in our collections to inspire children to create their works of art.

“The funding will be used to produce a Wild Escape Family Fun Day on Earth Day to mark the launch of our Living Symphonies and to create a new resource for families in our newly developed Sensing Naples galleries.’

For museums and galleries, the project is a chance to better connect with school-aged young people, allowing them to draw on their own collections, through a focus on wildlife and nature.

Museums, galleries and historic houses without an obvious link to nature are just as welcome, and are encouraged to partner with an organisation in the field, invite a creative practitioner to respond to the links between the existing collection and nature, or use an outdoor space.

The organisation has partnered with Museum Development UK (MDUK) to launch ring fenced funding for organisations which might otherwise be unable to take part.

Art Fund has also set up a series of online workshops, which began in July 2022 and will continue in 2023, to help participants with their endeavours, and has created a website dedicated to providing resources for The Wild Escape, which includes a template letter for advocating projects to MPs, toolkits for working with schools, and activity packs.

The wealth of resources, combined with funding offered by Art Fund, are an effort to ensure that museums and galleries, even without a programme, and those that don’t have to have obvious links to the natural world, are able to be involved too.

The ‘strength-in-numbers’ approach is hoped to bring together the expertise of museums and schools and encourage the education and expression of young people.

Jo Paton, The Wild Escape’s project director said the project “will show on a huge scale what museums have on offer to schools, educators and families as places to find inspiration, creativity and community, all year round – the original immersive experience.

“The project is an opportunity to think about our local landscape, a reason to delve into works of art, exhibits and objects that illustrate how our connection to nature has changed over time, and for collective support of children’s discoveries and creations on Earth Day.”

Art Fund hopes that stronger links between the likes of museums, galleries and schools will remain even after the project has ended, and inspires a lifetime of interest in creativity and caring for our local nature.

Horniman Natural History Gallery (Sophia Spring)
The Horniman Museum and Gardens

The Horniman Museum and Gardens, which was named Art Fund’s Museum of the Year in July 2022, is also taking part in the project.

Emily Martindale, the Museum’s Schools Learning Officer explained: “We ensure that our natural world schools’ workshops are inclusive, so that all children feel inspired by nature and motivated to make positive changes to protect local wildlife.

“We tailor our sessions to suit the needs of different classes and individual pupils, to allow all young people to feel connected with nature. Inclusive outdoor learning develops a confidence in children to enjoy and respect wildlife.’

Museums, galleries, historic houses and arts spaces can take part in The Wild Escape at any time, with activities taking place between January to July 2023.

Workshops, family and school activities will be taking place until July 2023, during which time is the launch of the collective work of art, featuring the pictures and stories that children have created.

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