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Schools invited to take part in largest ever project between UK’s museums

Art Fund, the UK’s leading arts charity, is inviting schools to take part in the largest ever collaboration between the UK’s museums, The Wild Escape. 

Supported by Arts Council England, the project aims to inspire thousands of children to visit museums and respond creatively to the threat to the UK’s natural environment by looking for animals featured in museum collections and creating their own wildlife artworks.  

The children’s animals will be brought to life in a newly imagined epic-scale artwork, created by BAFTA-winning immersive games studio, PRELOADED, to be unveiled on Earth Day 2023, Saturday 22 April.

Led by Art Fund, the project will bring together 500 museums across the country in partnership with the WWF, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the National Trust and English Heritage along with world-leading artists and environmentalists. It is one of the largest museum projects ever funded by Arts Council England.

The Wild Escape is inspired by BBC One’s major forthcoming Wild Isles series presented by Sir David Attenborough. It is in partnership with BBC Bitesize, the free study resource for children, which will host films showing an artist making a work inspired by animals in the UK’s museum collections.

The Wild Escape is open to every primary school age child to take part whether in class, through a visit to their local museum or online, from now to July. Hundreds of museums, galleries, and historic houses will host special activities for families connecting to the environment and biodiversity. 

It will create a new relationship between museums and the natural world aiming to shape the lives of the children who participate.

Leading artists are also creating artworks based on animals in museum collections to inspire children to take part, including artists like Angela Palmer, Mark Wallinger and Yinka Shonibare.

Jenny Waldman, director of Art Fund, said: “The Wild Escape aims to change children’s awareness and understanding of biodiversity loss. 

“By being at the centre of a co-created epic-scale digital artwork, and thanks to the support of Arts Council England, The Wild Escape will show how the UK’s museums can encourage new forms of creativity, encouraging children to take ownership of one of the defining challenges of our lives. The risk to our precious wildlife.

“The Wild Escape is a first. We want to show how museums, by working together can bring a fresh angle to learning, especially to welcome children’s creative responses to our great collections. 

“We want every child to learn from and enjoy what museums can offer whilst at the same time drawing attention to the threat of biodiversity loss in this country, one of the defining challenges of our lives.”

The Natural History Museum’s Biodiversity Trends Explorer, published in 2021, revealed the UK has almost lost half of its wildlife and plant species since the 1970s as a result of human and land development. 

Only 53% of the UK’s biodiversity is left, placing it in the bottom 10% of the world’s countries. The Natural History Museum is one of the museum partners on The Wild Escape.

According to a report by the Environment Agency published in July 2022, England is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world, with impacts accelerating since the mid-20th century. 

The impacts on species have been severe, with a quarter of mammals in England and almost a fifth of UK plants threatened with extinction. A third of British pollinator species have declined.

The Wild Escape is supported using public funding through Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grants, with additional support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Kusuma Trust, Foyle Foundation and a group of generous individuals and trusts.

Teachers can find out more about taking part in The Wild Escape here.

Image credit: Janie Airey_Art Fund 2021

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