Wild in Art Uses Figurines As Tools of Learning
After several years of working in television, Sally-Ann Wilkinson was looking to do more work with art and using it to bring communities together. She always had a great love for the visual arts, but was getting tired of the way the visual arts was seen as out of touch with the reality of most people’s lives. She and her business partner Charlie Langhorne started looking for a way to bring art onto the street in an accessible, popular and relevant way. That was how Wild in Art was born.
Art That Brings Communities Together
Wild in Art produces mass-appeal events that “engage residents and tourists alike, through the creation of citywide trails of uniquely painted sculptures.” In so doing the company works at putting art and creativity into an everyday context in which various groups get the chance to equally enjoy access to the works created. “We started our company,” says Wilkinson, “because we found that there were huge swaths of the community that did not necessarily integrate with each other. Young professionals might not, for example, integrate with really older residents and so we were looking for a way to bring various parts of the community together. We figured that art was the best way to promote inclusiveness and community integration.”
Founded in 2007, Wild in Art has produced several very successful public art events in cities around the world. To date, company events have raised over five million pounds for charity partners along the way. There have been Gromit sculptures in Bristol, rhinos in São Paulo, elephants in Melbourne and, a personal favorite of mine, the Books About Town project, launched this past summer, which formed a unique trail of “Book Benches” celebrating London’s literary heritage. In so doing, the Books About Town trail successfully brought together two art forms: creative writing and the visual arts.
Using Figurines to Engender Student Learning
Wilkinson sees the work that Wild in Art does as a great opportunity not only for bringing people together (and thereby fostering a sense of belonging) but, as well, as a primary means of getting people, particularly students, to engage with contemporary issues, in a non-threatening way. Says Wilkinson, “We have created a full curriculum for students that we call a creative pack. In this curriculum we use art as a device not only of learning but also of creating. In this curriculum, for example, we encourage discussions about endangered species, and we have figurines and other activities that go along with learning about endangered animals. We have found that if you put a baby elephant in front of a student, even as a sculpture, then that baby elephant becomes real to the students and the need to safeguard and protect that elephant becomes very real to the students, as well.” In the creative pack, students, through the use of figurines and pictures, are taught biology, issues about mothering, among other subjects.
As I listened to Wilkinson talk about the work that Wild in Art does with students, I was charmed. I could practically see young students sprawled out around a teacher and, using the curriculum that Wild in Art developed, not only having an appreciation of the visual arts, but also of the need to safeguard and protect threatened and vulnerable species, and areas, of the world. I could see the students falling in love with the small, delicate figurines that were part of the curriculum and subsequently falling in love with the natural world around them, and the species — endangered and otherwise — with which we share this world.
Wild in Art Pieces as Home Goods
For Wilkinson creating the smaller-scaled figurines is important, since the large-scale sculptures that line the Wild in Art trails are often auctioned off at charity. As she spoke I began to foresee a long line of these small, intricate and very beautiful figurines on a long wooden shelf in my home. I also began to see, too, that some of the larger sculptures would work equally well as decorative pieces in a home setting. I began seeing Wild in Art’s Book Benches popping up in areas of the world that I particularly love — New York City, Jamaica, Morocco. I began seeing my own writing and visual arts coming together on one of those very benches. Yes, indeed, I was charmed.
Wild in Art’s most recent project is all about owls, and is aptly titled, “The Big Hoot!” In this project, roughly three hundred gigantic owls were placed all over Birmingham City, including at the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. “In England,” Wilkinson explains, “the owl stands for wisdom and learning and discovery. We placed these owls in places not only where people would most likely see them, but also in places where people do not ordinarily go. In a sense, we want people to discover and rediscover their local community, and through the trails that we create, people have a chance of doing just that.”
Art Trails That Encourage Healthy Living
The idea of an art trail has blossomed and grown in interesting ways. Now, Wild in Art trails are seen by some in the medical community as a means of encouraging public health and preventative medicine. The trails have become part of a “Health by Stealth” campaign being advanced by health-care workers in the United Kingdom. “The nature of our trail is that people walk alongside them, work alongside them, or cycle by the trails we create,” Wilkinson adds. “In this way the trail encourages mobility, and especially social mobility, with people moving not only in and out of a city, but around a city as well. We are thrilled that our trails are now recognized for promoting a healthy lifestyle!”
So by now you, like me, must be wondering how to get a Wild in Art project into your beloved community. It turns out that this is not as challenging as it might first seem. The most important part of getting a Wild in Art trail in your community is getting a city on board with having a project. Then you can reach out to the Wild in Art team via their website to get the ball rolling.
Wild in Art produces tailor-made projects for individual communities all around the world. In so doing, it stages art events that are of particular interest to the local community. The company works equally with well-known and emerging artists, and has a refreshing way of engaging communities to be participants in creating the art that is placed around and among them. Maybe this is the reason for its enormous success?
Until next time.
The Books About Town photographs are credited to Chris O’Donovan. Merchandise images are credited to Stephen King. Go! Rhinos images are credited to Jason Brown. All other images are credited to Wild in Art.