The Wild Escape
Welcome to #TheWildEscape exhibition!
What is the Wild Escape?
The Wild Escape is a project, created by Art Fund and supported with funding by Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants, that aims to celebrate UK wildlife and creativity. Primary school age children from across the country have been creating artworks inspired by animals from within museum collections, and imagining a natural habitat for them. The project also draws attention to the issues of climate change and habitat loss in the UK.
The artworks created in museums and schools across the country have now been brought together by Art Fund in a huge digital artwork for Earth Day 2023. You can see this artwork now on their website here.
We received funding from Art Fund to run free education sessions on the themes of The Wild Escape for schools in and around Bradford, and over the past few months students in those sessions have been creating their own amazing artworks. While we will be sharing some of these with Art Fund for them to use in their collective artwork, we also wanted to make sure you got to see all the pictures they produced, and so we have put together our own digital exhibition!
Wildlife, the environment, and our collection
Our collection may not be centred around natural history, but we have plenty of links to UK Wildlife and environmental activism at the museum. One of the examples we used in our Wild Escape sessions was this banner by the Northern Friends Peace Group, which has a strong environmental focus. We used this banner to discuss habitat loss and the declining bee population in the UK.
We also have a lot of objects in our collection which show the links between anti-nuclear activism and a desire to protect the local natural landscape. This badge from Porton Down Peace Camp in the 1980s shows the contrast between the wildlife and natural beauty in the area, and the barbed wire surrounding the government’s chemical weapons laboratory at the site.
Many of the animals that the students chose to imagine a new habitat for in their artworks are currently facing habitat loss and declining populations in the UK. Here are some examples from our workshops:
With the reduction in suitable habitats for hedgehogs over the past few decades, their population levels have been in decline. The Woodland Trust suggests that their numbers in rural areas could be down by over half since 2000 due to a loss of woodland, disruption to their food supply from the use of pesticides, and being killed by cars.
Red squirrels are classified as a ‘near threatened’ species in all parts of the UK apart from Scotland, due to the introduction of grey squirrels during the Victorian era. Diseases commonly carried by these squirrels, as well as the increased competition for food, have caused red squirrel populations to decline. They also face many of the same issues as hedgehogs and other woodland mammals, seeing the impact of increased road traffic, habitat loss and predators.
The decline in the bee population in the UK is one that poses a serious threat, not just to the eco system generally but also to humans. 35 species of bees in the UK are currently under threat of extinction, with the loss of meadows and the use of pesticides putting them at risk. We rely on bees as pollinators, and so this is an issue that many climate activists are concerned about.
When we think of UK wildlife, fish might not be the first animals that come to mind. However, pollution in the water has had a dramatic impact on the populations of some fish in the UK, with burbot becoming extinct and sturgeon, whose populations were once significant, becoming critically endangered. People are working to restore the populations of some of these species by cleaning up the rivers and encouraging breeding of these fish.
We ran sessions with 12 different schools in and around the Bradford area – their artworks have been organised below by school. Click on the buttons below to see the artworks from each class!
The Wild Escape is made possible by lead support from Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants, with additional support from Art Fund.