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Museums mark Earth Day with digital artwork inspired by animals in museum collections

On Saturday 22nd April 2023, “The Wild Escape” will be unveiled to celebrate Earth Day – an initiative that has been developed through the partnership of Art Fund, WWF, the RSPB, English Heritage and National Trust.

The culmination of the biggest ever collaboration between UK museums – 524 in total – Wild Escape will encourage thousands of children to participate in hundreds of events across the country.

As a highlight of The Wild Escape, Art Fund are releasing an epic-scale digital landscape: an imaginary world specially commissioned from BAFTA winning games studio, PRELOADED, which features images of animals created by children.

Children will have the opportunity to upload their own animals until June 2023, sharing their creations with the world by logging in on Families can also visit the National Trust’s 500 plus properties to find inspiration. Using the houses and buildings, gardens and grounds, open spaces and countryside, and extensive collections, visitors can find animals inside and outside to help them create their animal art.

The Wild Escape represents one of the largest museum projects ever funded by Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants, with additional support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Kusuma Trust, Foyle Foundation and a group of generous individuals and trusts.

Leading British artists have joined The Wild Escape campaign – which has a strong focus on communicating the extent of the biodiversity crisis faced right here in the UK – including Rana Begum, Elizabeth Butterworth, Monster Chetwynd, Jeremy Deller, Es Devlin, Andy Holden, Lindsey Mendick, Heather Phillipson, Thomas J Price, Mollie Ray, Tai Shani, Yinka Shonibare, Bob and Roberta Smith, FKA Twigs and Mark Wallinger. Each artist has contributed their own interpretation artworks of animals in museum collections.

Ahead of the launch of The Wild Escape, Art Fund Director, Jenny Waldman, said: “The Wild Escape is a real demonstration of the power of our museums to work together for the benefit of their communities. Beyond the bricks and mortar of buildings, The Wild Escape sheds new light on the stories told by our world famous collections, and shows how relevant and vital these stories are. Never has there been a more important time for all of us to campaign for and protect our precious wildlife.”

Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, said: “We’re passionate about supporting young people of all ages to be creative, no matter where they live, where they go to school and where they spend their free time. That’s why I’m proud to have supported the ambitious Wild Escape project with a National Lottery Project Grant of £890,000 – the largest we’ve ever given to a museums project.

“The Wild Escape makes us see our nation’s collections in a new way that highlights the importance of the UK’s wildlife and shows how museums can help inspire creative action to tackle the climate crisis. I look forward to visiting Wolverhampton Art Gallery on Earth Day to see first-hand the impact this UK-wide project has had locally on children and young people.”

The Wild Escape is inspired by BBC One’s major TV series Wild Isles which celebrates the wonders of British wildlife, presented by Sir David Attenborough, and co-produced by the RSPB, WWF and The Open University.

The collective digital artwork can be accessed via, and will go live to the public for young people to add their animal artworks from 10am on Thursday 20th April.  The Wild Escape has also provided curriculum resources for schools to enable children to take part online or by visiting museums.

Meanwhile, highlights of the activities set to be held on Earth Day include everything from free, family-friendly drop-in sessions inspired by Britain’s rarest bee at The Box, Plymouth, to large-scale floral display workshops at Gallery Oldham in Greater Manchester.

At Ty Pawb, Wrexham, families are being invited to make origami and chromatography butterflies, while at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute, a celebratory workshop will be held – creating kites decorated to resemble moths, before attempting to fly them: a symbolic ‘wild escape’ for the decorative moths and butterflies carved in the panels and pillars of the house.

What the artists and museums had to say

The UK is in the top 10% of the most nature depleted countries in the world with a quarter of all mammals at risk of extinction. Over the last 50 years, the UK has lost 38 million birds from its skies; 97% of wildflower meadows have disappeared since the 1930s; and 92% of the UK’s seagrass meadows, which can absorb carbon more efficiently than tropical rainforests, have been lost in the last century.

Commenting on the importance and value of the Wild Escape, key figures from the arts and culture sector had this to say: “I am so glad to be involved in the Wild Escape. I grew up in North Yorkshire where many of these animals, now under threat, were part of my childhood. I believe children can become advocates for our natural world via the arts. The Art Fund’s work to encourage these encounters through museums is so important.” – Artist Bob and Roberta Smith

“I’m delighted that Tate is joining hundreds of museums and galleries across the UK to take part in The Wild Escape. This is an inspiring way to highlight Britain’s incredible public art collections, to celebrate children’s creativity, and to draw attention to Earth Day. The cultural sector has a vital role to play in facing the climate emergency. By working together we can raise awareness and empower people to help tackle this most pressing of issues.” Maria Balshaw, Director of Tate

“Taking part in The Wild Escape has brought the environment to the forefront of our family programming at the gallery, giving young people a say in how we should tackle the challenges we currently face. It also gives us a chance to learn together from past records and reimagine the way we live with plants and animals in our urban spaces today. It’s a fantastic opportunity to connect with families in their love of nature and their commitment to protecting our planet for both ourselves and the amazing wildlife all around us.” – Ian Fegan, Director of Communications and Visitor Experience at City of Wolverhampton Council

“We are delighted to be taking part in The Wild Escape, with a series of workshops for young people on Bute ahead of our major exhibition with Monster Chetwynd this summer. By using our collection, our site specificity on the Isle of Bute, and the inspiration of Monster’s own joyful, performative works, we hope that the workshops on Earth Day will see some wonderful artworks created, and also allow for an awareness of the fragile nature of our natural environment to remain at the forefront of our minds.” – Sophie Crichton Stuart, Chair, Mount Stuart Trust

“As an arts organisation with a significant following of families and young people, we believe it is important to utilise the arts as a force for good in our local community, and provide a platform for discussion and education around societal issues, including the environment, climate change and biodiversity. The Wild Escape has enabled children and their families to engage with these issues through an inspiring programme of activities. These goals are harmonious with the core theme of our arts programme for this year – entitled ‘Growing Together’ – so, for us, the opportunity to be part of this significant national campaign has been hugely rewarding.” – Jo Marsh, Tŷ Pawb Creative Director


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