Children’s Arts Week 2021: creative ways to inspire students this summer

From 29 June, Children’s Art Week began and with it, a wide range of artistic activities and events for children and young people comprised a UK-wide celebration of the arts. This year, the organisation that usually hosts the occasion, Engage, scaled back their provisions. Despite this, teachers, families and students got creative and there are many ways they can continue to be inspired this summer.

Cultural and visual arts are essential for creative subjects, building a student’s self-esteem and activating the imagination and expression skills central to the wider learning process. A study by the University of Nottingham and Arts Council England revealed students feel creative lessons “tap into their imagination, creative instinct and self-worth in ways that other lessons do not”.

Yet, many feel unable to be creative outside of school. Two thirds of the 6,000 students the University of Nottingham surveyed felt school was the “only opportunity they have to engage in arts activities”.

This survey was completed before Coronavirus began. Over the past 18 months, access to creativity has been stripped back enormously. Not only have classrooms been closed and therefore, resources including paint have been stripped back but also, the creative industry as a whole has struggled to survive.

While access to arts and culture has been dramatically reduced, our need for it has increased. With ongoing lockdowns and loneliness rising, it’s the creative sector that can help reconnect us and protect our wellbeing.

Governments are beginning to take note of this challenge and the importance of the arts. This week, the Scottish Government announced an unprecedented £7,000,000 injection into the education sector, which will fund arts and cultural experiences including music lessons and theatre trips. This will help support the sector and facilitate student creativity.

It’s clear children and young people are overdue quality creative education. So, no matter where you are based this summer, here are some ways you can celebrate Children’s Art Week and inspire creativity!

Festivals and galleries

While last year was filled with event cancellations, postponements and digital reinventions, this summer festivals and galleries are back to brighten up our lives and spread creativity!

Due to the lowering of restrictions which will begin today, 19 July, many events will be back and running. Across the UK, in-person events will help reconnect, inspire and motivate young people, from Brighton fringe festival to the Green Gathering in Monmouthshire. Additionally, galleries will open up once again, displaying a huge variety of artworks.

Many teachers are utilising these opportunities by encouraging students to attend at least one cultural or arts event over the holidays. Having reflected on their experience and what a difference visiting these places in person made to their overall creativity, students will be able to share their thoughts with the class when they return in September.

Online collectives

Many students won’t be able to visit in-person arts and cultural festivals this summer for a multitude of reasons, including feeling anxious or uncomfortable about returning to potentially crowded places. If this is the case, or perhaps students who have joined festivals would like further creative opportunities, then exploring online collectives may be perfect for them.

Online collectives are groups of internet-based galleries which exist to widen access to art for purposes of enjoyment, learning and research. One of the most extensive online collectives is Art UK, which hosts a variety of artistic topics for students to explore, include war, science, sport and fantasy.

Many in-person galleries will also continue to update their children’s resources and exhibitions online. This includes The Tate, Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.

Creative tasks

The online world has exploded with virtual creative masterclasses and resources since the pandemic began. Teachers and parents alike are benefiting from these this summer by setting inspiring summer arts tasks. Such activities could include encouraging students to make jumping frogs and other animals out of paper (which could form an entire zoo!), write a creative story informed by their personal lockdown experiences or painting at home.

Competitions

Competitions bring children together, encourage focus and make learning fun. There are many creative competitions children and young people can join this summer, both online and in-person.

For example, The Big Draw hosts a range of competitions and group drawing tasks designed to inspire, the MOMA Machynlleth YA competition runs until 18 September 2021 and focuses on expressions of love and the RSPB’s Wild Art children’s competition encourages children to explore the outdoors creatively.

Children’s Art Week was designed to shine a light on the importance of creative education. No matter how you celebrate this year, we hope all students across the UK will be able to reconnect with their creativity and feel inspired by the world of art.

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