HOW TO GET EVEN THE MOST RELUCTANT CHILD INTERESTED IN THE ARTS
By Jodi Bartle
In a city full of free art collections housed in imposing grand institutions or stark modern cubes, stuffed to the plastered architraves or minimalist bare walls of Old Masters, Warhols, photography, sculpture and contemporary art from all over the world, Londoners are utterly privileged.
But it’s hard not to get complacent - turning to the blue-lit screen of Netflix or another round of Fortnite instead of losing ourselves in the glossy oils of a Vermeer or the optical trickery of a Bridget Riley.
Worse, art classes seem to be in demise at schools, and the craft of creating something out of nothing, pottering about with wool and glue and empty shoeboxes destined for recycling, can feel like a quaint, lost childhood pastime, along with other relics like walking home from school on your own or climbing a sturdy neighbourhood tree.
So reclaim it - get your kids up and out and see if you can’t create your own youthful Young British Artist (dream big - think Chelsea School of Arts’ alumni Chris Ofili and Anish Kapoor for starters); sample some of the most startling, mood-enhancing, creative and inspiring artistic collections in the world, all here in this city, and get them experimenting with the joys of making their own arts and crafts masterpieces.
Here’s a roundup of ten places to start your kid’s love affair with creative expression, and they’re all mostly free and only ever a tube or bus ride away. How lucky are we?
Street Art For The Cool Kids
You just have to start here - with the luminous, tacky, glorious God’s Own Junkyard neon shrine in Walthamstow. A huge warehouse-sized assemblage of vintage signs and neon lights are part of the collection of the late artist Chris Bracey, who eventually ended up making neon props for Hollywood directors. There are religious statues, disco balls, and neon signs aplenty all for sale or for rent, and a cafe on site.
Next, try the Leake Street graffiti tunnel under Waterloo Station, which is the largest legal street art area and home to original Banksy works as well as an ever-changing display of talented graffiti artists. There are plans to regenerate the area and the arches in the tunnel are set to house pop-ups, a sensory space and bars and cafes, but until then, it’s a thrilling place to wander on your way to street food stalls outside the Royal Festival Hall.
Brick Lane also has a myriad of quirky, thoughtful, funny street art lining the walls around the area - so keep that in mind when you are next in line for authentic bagels or sampling the international food stalls lining the streets on the weekend market.
Young Woke Feminists Who Like A Floral Garland Or Two
You’d have to be living under a rock not to know that the Frida Kahlo show has come to town. Specifically, to the V&A for the Making Herself Up tour - a collection of personal artefacts and clothing belonging to Frida, which has never before been exhibited outside of Mexico. There’ll be eyebrow pens and bespoke boots for her prosthetic leg on display, necklaces, painted corsets, and photographs.
Cool Contemporary Kids - Mayfair Galleries
Mayfair, that rather glossy part of central London, boasts many galleries showing works curated by some of the world’s hottest dealers, and all for free. Go and see the newest, brashest stuff alongside art students looking for inspiration and serious art buyers looking for investment. You’re also very near the Royal Academy so you can pop in there for a cup of tea and a biscuit for when the modern stuff leaves you feeling heady and woefully underpaid.
Art Classes in North London
We love the Corner9 Arts Projects classes in Dalgarno Road, a charity that works to raise funds for art activities for the people of North Kensington, including drawing classes, sculpture, textiles, woodworking and dance, drama, circus skills and puppet events for kids and adults. There are various free community sessions, such as Pinch Pots pottery sessions, holiday drop ins and art birthday parties for kids 5 years and older.
Seeing Artists In Action - Kindred Studios
Kindred Studios, a creative home for 175 artists and makers housed in a former Victorian school, has started running weave, knit, woodworking, print and mosaics workshops with local primary schools in the Maida Vale area. They hold open days where you can go inside the studio spaces and see the artists at work as well as buy their art, jewellery, ceramics, illustrations, paintings, textiles, and photographs direct; kids can get a sense of what it means to be an artist making a living from creating. Future plans include fundraising for an outdoor learning space to host opportunities for the local community to engage in arts and environmental programs.
The Big Guns - London’s Museums and Galleries
As if free entry wasn't enough, the big artistic institutions also shower us with weekend and holiday options, from free drop-in Sunday sessions at the National Portrait Gallery, Create and Make at the Design Museum on the last Sunday of every month, and the Tate Modern’s workshop for kids aged 8-14 which run every third Saturday of the month as well as holiday sessions. You can also visit the V&A’s pop-up performances on Saturdays and free making sessions on Sundays.
Hackney’s own drawing school offers opportunities for students from all backgrounds who want to develop their drawing skills. Teaching, inspiration and encouragement is provided by professional artists who are alumni of its postgraduate programme, The Drawing Year. Kids aged 15 to 18 are eligible for the Young Associates programme, and younger kids between 10 to 14 who love to draw can join weekend or after-school drawing clubs. The Royal Drawing School also offers one week holiday courses in the Easter and Summer school holidays for young artists aged 11–15 years.
Mini Picassos For The Tiniest Artistes
This is an art school for kids and their adults in Kensal Rise, with a range of classes to suit everyone as well as holiday workshops and hosted parties. The toddler classes range in ages from 15 months to 4 years and tend to get messy with play-doh and enthusiastic singing, while older classes are held for kids between 4-7 years and 8-11 years.