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Your place to explore new perspectives on British art from 1900 to now. Through interviews, films, image galleries and essays, we uncover the creative lives of the people behind the art on our walls.

Woman on left in blue jumper pointing at map on the wall surrounded by young children in purple jumpers

Launching the Wild Escape

[ News )

We caught up with our Head of Learning and Public Programmes, Cynara Davies, to explore the Gallery’s participation in Art Fund’s Wild Escape initiative.

This project has been our contribution to the Art Fund’s Wild Escape initiative, partnering with local primary schools and environmental organisations, the South Downs National Park Authority and Goodwood Education Trust. Through a series of workshops in the Gallery and outdoors, children have explored how the natural world can inform their own creativity, and have learned about the unique ecosystems in their locality and what can be done to protect them.

Woman on left in blue jumper pointing at map on the wall surrounded by young children in purple jumpers

During the spring term 2023, we have engaged over 90 students from three primary schools in this project- Portfield Primary Academy School and Parklands Community Primary School in Chichester and Edward Bryant School in Bognor. The children ranged from age 7-11 and collectively took part in 21 workshops, with a total of 630 individual participations.

The project began with pupils undertaking Encounter and Create workshops in the Gallery. During the Encounter workshop they were introduced to the Sussex Landscape: Chalk, Wood and Water and Birds and Beasts: The Wild Escape exhibitions, through facilitated conversations based on open questions and sketch book exercises.

Photograph of a group of children arms in the air in a gallery space

The Create workshops in the studio were led by artists Laura Ribbons and Laura Buckle who were recruited through an open call out for artists with particular expertise in learning, art and ecology. Students created their own landscape paintings using chalk and water colour, with perspectives from the point of view of a flying bird or small mammal or insect. They then created sculptural animal shelters from natural materials, which they placed in woodland on the Goodwood Estate to be inhabited and absorbed back into nature.

Photograph of a child wearing a white GAP hooded jumper working with twigs at a blue plastic clad table

Following each creative workshop the children were transported into the countryside to undertake environmental workshops exploring the unique biodiversty of the local area, with the South Downs National Park Learning team on Iping Common and with Goodwood Education Trust on the Goodwood Estate. They explored heathland, woodland and farmland, three of the six main habitats found in the Sussex Landscape.

Photograph of a group of three children in a forest setting up a bird feeder

The last workshop took place in each of the schools and was led by the National Park team supported by Gallery staff, when children reflected on all the workshops they had undertaken and what they had learned. They then developed Earth Protection Pledges, a practical five step action plan to undertake at school over the next 12 months to increase sustainability, through waste and energy reduction, reuse, recycling and promoting bio-diversity. The Gallery has also committed to an Earth Protection Pledge which is rooted in our Environmental Action Plan and will be working alongside the schools to achieve it over the next year. The Earth Protection Pledges, artwork and photographs will be on display during the Gallery’s free Earth Day event on 22 April.

Photograph of 3 children holding sticks with a grassy heath in the background

Learning Programme Manager Claire Walton explains that ‘through creative activities which encouraged thoughtful and positive exploration of landscape and biodiversity, children are forming powerful, meaningful connections with nature which we hope will last a lifetime.’

Group of 4 children in coats and hats and orange high vis vests in a heathland

Teacher’s reflections on the project:

Such an amazing time had by all, the children had the most fantastic time seeing real art on display and learning about the materials used. Then the fantastic opportunity to get outside and learn about the wonderful wildlife at Iping in the fresh air and on location!’

Portfield Primary School

‘This project will inspire us as leaders to create different art experiences for the children linked to nature…. The children have developed creative thinking and collaboration skills and have enjoyed being in different natural environments’

Parklands Primary School

‘The children loved making shelters for the animals in the wildlife and then placing them in the woods. This is such a lovely experience for all the children, giving them a wonderful first-hand experience of the world around them. Also knowing what is on their doorstep. Children have learnt to collaborate with each other. They have an increased awareness of ecological issues and ways to support the environment.’

Edward Bryant School

Photograph of a group of children examining an object

Pupil’s feedback:

‘I’ve discovered that I can do art better, how we can make a bigger change, how great nature is and how to help the environment’.

Portfield Primary School

‘I discovered that the landscapes of the heathland and farmland are very pretty- they have inspired me to do more art work’.

Parklands Primary School

‘I liked working in a team because we came up with lots of ideas’

Edward Bryant School


We would like to thank all the project partners and look forward to continuing to develop our relationships with the schools and environmental organisations into the future.

If you or your school would like to recreate some of the activities we ran for this project, check out our school resources here.

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