Art Fund has today launched a £1m public campaign which it hopes will enable the UK’s museums and galleries to increase access for people under 24, in a move motivated by its belief that future resilience relies on serving young people more meaningfully.

The ‘Energise Young Minds’ programme hopes to boost young footfall after disruptions to the sector and will turn to the wider public for help to reach the £1 million target. Donations will go towards programmes in 2022 specifically aimed at this age group.

The charity has committed £500k from its charitable resources and is raising a further £50k from their National Art Pass members.

Art Fund points to research it published earlier this year, which revealed that engaging people aged 24 and under is one of the most urgent priorities for the sector following the pandemic. It also reports that in a further recent survey commissioned by the charity, a third of museums had no published offer for schools and young people.

Art Fund also said it has identified a number of barriers for using museum collections in the classroom.

An initial Art Fund survey in 2021 of over 230 teachers from state schools showed that only 32% said they were aware of professional development opportunities to use museums to improve learning outcomes in their teaching.

The charity is now calling on the public to enable them to respond to museum ambition in this area – from supporting new museum partnerships with schools, to digital resources that bring public art collections into the classroom, to involving young people in devising and delivering programmes, to providing opportunities to access careers in the arts.

Jenny Waldman, director of Art Fund said a further dip in young footfall could be on the way, with an “almost perfect storm” of reduced school trips to museums and galleries during lockdown and “cash-strapped cultural institutions” having to make difficult decisions that have often had an impact on learning teams.

“We cannot allow cultural poverty for kids and must act now to help young people, those with least access to experiencing the arts, have opportunities to enjoy all that the UK’s museums can offer. This age group has missed out after enormous disruption to their learning and wellbeing and we know those in the most deprived areas have been hit hardest.”

Lemn Sissay, author and broadcaster, features in an Art Fund film to promote the campaign.

“Museums are like time machines: they hold the past and the present and predict the future. We need to connect with all young people right now – if not, the museum and gallery experience will not enrich their adult lives,” Said Sissay.

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