About

The National Portrait Gallery is working in partnership with four museums and galleries across England: Coventry, Sheffield, Southampton and Cornwall to deliver Creative Connections in 2022-23. At each location, art students work collaboratively with artists to dive into the Gallery’s Collection and discover the portraits and inspirational stories of people associated with their neighbourhood. Their creative response of new artwork offers an insight into community identities and representation, and will be exhibited at each partner venue. Creative Connections is part of the National Portrait Gallery’s transformational Inspiring People project which includes an extensive programme of nationwide activities, funded by The National Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund. These ambitious partnerships with museums, local community groups and schools aim to bring the Gallery closer to communities across the UK. Creative Connections is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Art Fund with the generous support of the Palley family and additional support from the 29th May 1961 Charitable Trust.

Creative Connections launched in 2012 with a 4-year London-based participation project devised by the Gallery and supported by the Palley Family. Its aim has remained – connecting young people with contemporary artists to explore the Gallery’s Collection and create new collaborative responses for exhibition. The young people aged 14 – 16 years, come from an age and demographic under-represented at the Gallery. The project set out to inspire young people, raise aspiration and pride of their local neighbourhood and support their creative skills development. The 4 project artists were The 4 London boroughs were Tower Hamlets, Ealing, Camden, Southwark & Lambeth. The 4 schools were.  

In 2017 the Gallery piloted a regional partnership with Nottingham Contemporary with a view to expanding the project nationally. Artist Katherine Green worked collaborative with Year 10 GCSE Photography students from Farnborough Academy in the Clifton ward of Nottingham.

Aims and Approach

Creative Connections aims to inspire and extend young people’s own aspirations, creative endeavour and cultivate a sense of achievement both individually, collectively and across the participating secondary school. The project has demonstrated the effectiveness of this model in increasing a sense of pride in their local area and supporting the extension of their own artistic practice and creative skills. For many it has been the first time they’ve had the opportunity to engage critically with a Gallery Collection and get closer to working with artists, experts and professionals.

Through a series of creative art workshops the young people work collaboratively with an artist, taking inspiration from people in the Gallery’s Collection connected to their local neighbourhood. Each year the delivery model responds to the artist’s practice and vision. The resulting artwork is displayed at the Gallery, which is then extended through corresponding digital activities and public, community and learning programmes. The young people involved, have the opportunity to work in collaboration with an artist, develop their GCSE portfolio and participate in the making of the display at the Gallery. Participating in the project has challenged their perceptions of cultural institutions and opened up new perspectives on the Gallery and portraiture for them and their families.