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National Gallery celebrates 10 Years of 'Taking Art' to young hospital patients

Issued: August 2009

This summer, the National Gallery celebrates a decade of Take Art - an outreach programme that provides opportunities for children and teens who, due to chronic or short-term illness or injury, are being educated in hospital.
This programme provides children who cannot leave the hospital with access to the National Gallery’s collection from their hospital school room, ward or bed.

Take Art has a flexible structure but sessions usually include interactive discussions followed by practical sessions delivered by a National Gallery lecturer with teachers or resident artists from the hospital school. At the end of every visit lecturers leave a new print at the hospital, helping to build a comprehensive library for future use. Children and adolescents taking part include those receiving treatment for cancer, those being cared for in an eating disorder unit, and those awaiting surgery.

The key objectives of Take Art are to provide creative and enjoyable activities for vulnerable and excluded young people; to work directly with patients as well as encourage teachers and medical staff to use National Gallery prints as a resource for learning across the curriculum; and to support teachers in hospital schools who are short of resources or who work in isolated conditions.

Funding from the John S Cohen Foundation and The Austin and Hope Pilkington Trust has enabled the National Gallery to extend the range of sources available for Take Art to include multisensory boxes based on key paintings from the collection. These boxes are particularly helpful for those with sensory impairment or special educational needs. This funding has also allowed the Gallery to provide materials for the children so they can participate in puppet making, drawing, painting, creative writing, 3D modelling and printmaking.

The number of visits has steadily increased over the years. In the 2007-2008 academic year, 11 National Gallery lecturers made 77 visits to 17 hospitals in London, working with around 380 patients. In addition, four hospital groups have made five visits to the National Gallery, and 12 teachers from participating hospital schools have attended Continuing Professional Development training courses at the National Gallery.

From 2001 – 2005, the Gallery expanded the scheme to include Take Art Travels, incorporating visits to Newcastle and Bristol hospitals, linked with Touring Partnership exhibitions at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Bristol’s City Museum and Art Gallery. These cultural institutions continue to work with these hospitals independent of the National Gallery. In 2009-10 academic year, two new hospital schools will join the Take Art programme, taking the total number of participating schools to 19.

Take Art has been extremely well received by the children, parents, teachers and hospital professionals. Positive outcomes include improved concentration, enhanced communication skills and opportunities for parents to do something positive and enjoyable with their child in a hospital setting that is not related to their medical treatment.


For press information contact Nicola Jeffs/ 0207 747 2532/

Notes to editors

Some of the work done by those treated at Springfield University Hospital, London, will be exhibited in an upcoming National Gallery exhibition this Autumn – Festival of Light – a celebration of creative work by visitors of all ages.

Hospital schools that take part in Take Art include:

  • St Thomas Hospital, Lambeth Palace Road, London (Eveliina Children’s Hospital and the Renal Unit)
  • Whipps Cross University Hospital, Whipps Cross Road, London
  • Whittington Hospital Children’s School, Highgate Hill, London
  • Royal Free Children’s Hospital School, Riddle Ward, London
  • Royal Marsden Hospital School, Surrey
  • Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Brockley Hill, Middlesex
  • Springfield University Hospital, London
  • Springfield University Hospital Psychiatric Unit, London
  • St George’s Hospital School, Tooting, London
  • Simmons House, St Luke’s Hospital, Woodside Avenue, London
  • St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, London
  • Barnet Hospital, Hertfordshire
  • Chelsea Children’s Hospital School, London
  • Coborn Centre for Adolescent Mental Health, Plaistow, London
  • Collingham Child and Family Centre, Westminster, London
  • The Children’s Hospital Unit, Great Ormond Street, London
  • Guy’s Hospital, Snowsfield Psychiatric Unit, London

About outreach at the National Gallery

As part of its wider strategic objective to provide access to the collection the National Gallery is committed to finding imaginative and illuminating ways to nurture interest in its collection among a wide and diverse public.

The Gallery’s outreach programme plays an intrinsic role in delivering this objective. The outreach projects are targeted at key community groups and designed to creatively engage audiences who may encounter physical, emotional and intellectual barriers to accessing the collection through other educational provision. By offering a range of interactive outreach projects the Gallery seeks to ensure that people who may have traditionally felt excluded are encouraged to experience and respond to the National Gallery Collection.

Through its outreach programmes the Gallery has developed partnerships with both London-based and regional community groups, and broadly aims to support social and cultural inclusion for people of all ages from a diverse range of social, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. All projects take as their starting point close observation and discussion of focus paintings from The National Gallery’s collection. The scope and theme of each project is tailored to the specific needs and interests of each participant group.

Projects are delivered by freelance artists and lecturers and workshops take place either in the Gallery or at a range of offsite venues. These projects provide opportunities for participants to build knowledge, learn new practical and interpersonal skills, develop confidence and explore their own creativity.

The National Gallery is committed to maintaining and developing sustainable outreach programmes as we believe that everyone – regardless of age or background – is entitled to experience, enjoy and be inspired by the paintings in the collection.

National Gallery Touring Partnerships

The Love exhibition in 2008 was the last of a successful series of touring exhibitions created in partnership with the National Gallery, Bristol’s Museums, Galleries & Archives Service and Tyne & Wear Museums. The partnership scheme thrived for seven years as a result of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, and later also from the Northern Rock Foundation.

This source of funding has now come to an end. Although 'Love' was the last of this series of touring exhibitions, the National Gallery will be building on this success and is committed to exploring ways in which it can improve access to its collections with regional institutions throughout the UK in the future.


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