Leighton House museum in Kensington has gifted 250 ‘creativity boxes’ to children and young people from west London living in disadvantaged households.
This was part of the museum’s ‘Time for Art’ Easter initiative, which aimed to support young people without access to digital technology or creative resources during the pandemic.
The boxes contain quality arts materials, donated by Winsor and Newton, and arts activities curated by the museum’s learning department in collaboration with contemporary artists Laurelie Rae and Ayesha Gamiet.
Leighton House learning officer Charlotte Villiers explained: “Some of the feedback from other people taking part in our virtual workshops in the chat or emails was really moving.
“They talked about how they were very isolated, or how it had been stressful, and being able to absorb themselves in art brought this moment of relaxation, peace.
“I’d always believed it but again I felt this sense of how powerful art can be, it could really be a lifeline for some people and from that came the box.
“We were all very keen that it wasn’t this tatty thing that had been thrown over the fence by Amazon, but it was going to children as a gift.”
Thanks to Leighton House volunteers, 250 boxes were packed and shipped to families in time for the Easter holidays.
Villiers added: “We began recognising that being able to go online was not this magical panacea for everything because suddenly you were faced with children plonked in front of a screen.
“The idea was that these boxes were a window on the world for children and young people as you know it’s been so bleak recently with how much they can explore.”
Born in Singapore with a father in the services, Villiers has worked at Leighton House for five years, drawn in by its ‘kaleidoscope of visual and cultural references’ and resonating with Lord Leighton’s global perspective and support of young artists.
She said: “There are barriers that can go up when children are really young, and one of the things we do with them is not to assume they’ve been in a museum before.
“All the things we might take for granted, like where to go first, who to ask, what to do when you’re in there… it can be really off putting.
“So that’s one of the most exciting things for working for the museums, just thinking about how we can open up the doors to everybody.”
Leighton House, tucked away near Holland Park, is the home and studio of Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896) and showcases his collections, particularly from the Middle East.
Leighton House is currently closed to the public and is undergoing a major redevelopment which will involve the installation of a lift, adding a learning space in the historic servants’ quarters and introducing a café amongst other exciting developments.
They have been running exciting online programs over lockdown which we spoke to Senior Curator Daniel Robbins about last year.
They hope to reopen and relaunch their face-to-face workshops this autumn.
All Images courtesy of Leighton House