Children invited to take part in new national online art exhibition to raise awareness of endangered animals, with The Wild Escape

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The Wild Escape Art Fund

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Children across the UK are invited to create an animal-inspired art work that will become part of a new major collaborative online exhibition.

The Wild Escape is a nationwide mass participation art project that will inspire children to set free their imaginations and connect with nature through art. The virtual exhibition is being coordinated by Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for art, which provides millions of pounds every year to help museums and galleries acquire and share works of art across the UK.

The project is calling on children to explore UK wildlife found in museums and gallery collections – and to then make some art of their own, imagining their chosen creature’s journey to a natural habitat.

The epic collective digital artwork featuring thousands of artworks from around the UK will be unveiled on Earth Day, which takes place on Saturday 22 April 2023.

Inspired by the new BBC series The Wild Isles, presented by Sir David Attenborough. The young artists will then be able to visit their animal in the online habitat until the end of Great Big Green Week at the end of June.

The Wild Escape is supported by more than 500 museums across the UK. Leading artists, creatives and environmentalists are also imagining animals’ journeys to inspire children to take part, including Es Devlin, Heather Phillipson, Rana Begum, Mollie Ray, Yinka Shonibare, Tai Shani, FKA Twigs, Claire Twomey, Mark Wallinger and Angela Palmer.

The project will encourage children to think about the importance of protecting and preserving the natural world, as well as enabling museums to take a new approach to the biodiversity crisis and help positively impact the lives of the children who participate.

We headed to our local museum, National Museum Cardiff / Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru, to visit the Natural History gallery. It’s a place we’ve visited many times before and my children are always fascinated by the diverse collection of animals.

You can see a video of how we got in the reel on the Cardiff Mummy Says Instagram channel.

The Wild Escape Art Fund
The Wild Escape Art Fund
The Wild Escape Art Fund

The museum, which is free to visit, is home to everything from the glass case of butterflies and moths, to the display of familiar woodland creatures including a fox, rabbit, owl and badgers, to a replica of the leatherback turtle found dead near Skomer Island in 1988 and the skeleton of the humpback whale, which was washed up on the coastline near Aberthaw back in 1984 (my children have heard the story of how I was taken to see this as a child so many times; I can still remember the smell!).

My children have always loved looking at the wildlife on display at the museum and now that they are getting older, they spend more time reading the display boards and information about the creatures they are seeing, as well as having a more in depth knowledge of endangered species and factors which cause them harm.

The Wild Escape Art Fund

For many of these animals, the museum does a great job of creating environments that replicate where they live, or providing images showing them in the wild. We see the badgers near their set, while the photography surrounding the whale is stunning, capturing the huge ripples and waves created as its fin emerges through the water.

It’s perfect inspiration for our task of creating our own artworks of animals escaping to their natural habitats.

After spending a couple of hours exploring the museum – obviously we had to go and visit the dinosaurs too! – we headed home ready to get creative. My three wanted to use colouring pencils, but you can use paints, felt pens, crayons, make a model or collage – be as creative as you like.

My nine year old knew straight away that he wanted to create a sea scene for the turtle he’d seen. His picture was also inspired by the giant jelly fish hanging from the museum’s ceiling.

As the museum display reminds us, plastic in our seas is a huge danger to turtles as they often mistake plastic bags for jelly fish – their favourite food – with disastrous consequences.

The Wild Escape Art Fund

My 11 year old was taken with the fox and found an excellent ‘how to draw’ tutorial on YouTube which helped him create his drawing. Although red foxes aren’t on the endangered list in the UK, they are threatened by habitat loss and hunting.

My 13 year old was very taken with the whale photography and replicated this with her own depiction of a fin surging through the water. Hunting took whales to the brink of extinction and even now populations are still low.

With their pictures finished, our next task was to take a photo and email them to Art Fund on letting them know what species each drawing depicts.

The Wild Escape Art Fund
The Wild Escape Art Fund

Every creation submitted will receive a unique code, helping you to find your creature in its new digital home when the gallery launches on Earth Day. The exhibition will remain open until the end of Great Big Green Week at the end of June.

The Wild Escape website also features information on workshops and special events taking place across the UK in the run up to Earth Day, with many happening over the Easter holidays. There are none currently scheduled to take place in Cardiff, but it didn’t stop us being inspired to take part. You can take part as a family, or schools and youth groups can also get involved.

It was great to see my children thinking about the world around them and the kind of habitats their chosen creatures would like to live in. We’ve just started watching The Wild Isles series as a family, so it was a great way for us to talk about what we’ve seen so far and think about the dangers facing wildlife close to home as well as the more well-known threatened species.

The Wild Escape Art Fund

We’re looking forward to seeing our creations in the online gallery next month and meeting all the other wildlife in the gallery too.

For more information on The Wild Escape, visit the website here. The online world will be open from Saturday 22 April.

You can also listen to an audio introduction to the project in the video below.

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