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UK children are asked ‘What is art?’ in schools competition

— February 2015

Associated media

Do Ho Suh, Toilet

A national competition will reveal what art means to UK primary school children

A UK-wide competition is launched today asking all primary school children 'What is art?'.

The competition by Artis challenges primary school children aged 4–11 years old to explore what art is, encouraging them to move beyond the idea that art is just a picture or painting on the wall. The competition aims to stretch children’s imaginations, spark discussions inside and outside the classroom, and help children grapple with what art means to them.

Artis has been transforming primary education through the arts for the past 10 years. Artis specialists integrate the performing arts into learning to help with teaching the curriculum. Bespoke programmes physically engage 50,000 children every week, raising the quality of teaching and learning within schools.

Rebecca Boyle Suh, executive chairman of Artis believes the competition will be both enjoyable and stimulating for children and teachers alike:

 The competition creates a lot of questions for teachers and children to work through together. Our aim is to provoke a discussion in primary schools. If a child has never visited an art gallery or a concert hall, does that mean they have no understanding of what art is?

Can children of primary school age really understand what art is? Does art tell stories, ask questions or make statements? Does it necessarily have to be beautiful, provocative or skilful? Must it be displayed in a certain way or place to be art?

The competition is supported with a detailed teaching resource that uses internationally renowned artist Do Ho Suh’s sculpture, Toilet, as a stimulus. This resource includes performing arts activities (drama, dance, music) for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 pupils, and is designed to support class teachers in facilitating thinking around this question. The resource also links to the UK core curricula of English, Maths and Science.  You can download the teaching resource free at

The competition is open to all primary schools and the competition entry is simply to answer the question ‘What is art?’ in 10 words, starting ‘Art is…’. Entries can be accompanied by an image, sound file or movie, but this is not a requirement.

Multiple entries from each school are welcome. Entries will be accepted from classes and individual children.

Full details on how to enter can be found at www.artiseducation/whatisart

The deadline for entries is Friday 27 March 2015.

The competition will be judged by a panel from the arts and education, including Emily Pringle, Head of Learning at the Tate, artist Do Ho Suh, percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, composer Nitin Sawhney, drama educationalist Professor Joe Winston, and mathematician Professor Marcus du Sautoy. The winning class or child will receive £1,000 to spend on the arts in their school.

Launching the competition, Dame Evelyn Glennie said:

It's fantastic to see a competition that will really bring into focus what we understand to be art. I'm really excited about reading the entries, which I am sure will be surprising and engaging. We will be looking for that one entry that is impossible to ignore.

The winner will be announced in April.

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