We’re a modest lot here at Art UK. We are great at celebrating the UK’s amazing public art collections but struggle when it comes to shouting about our own organisation and the impact our work has on education, communities, schools, artists, galleries and museums across the nation. However, given that we owe our success to our supporters we decided it was OK to do a bit of boasting on your behalf.
So here is our top 10 list of ways your donations are making a difference to the UK's communities and art collection...
1. Democratising access to art through the possibilities of technology
Culture opens doors, improves social mobility and has a huge impact on life chances. By photographing and publishing online over 212,000 oil paintings we have been able to give anyone that visits Art UK free access to our nation’s artistic treasures whenever and wherever they are.
Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chairman of Arts Council England, said: 'The new Art UK website is a stunning example of how digital technology can make art available for everyone to enjoy... With exciting plans to add sculpture and other types of artwork, Art UK will offer a growing feast of art for people to enjoy and be inspired by for years to come.'
2. Protecting our cultural heritage for future generations
3,258 (and counting) collections and local authorities from South West Cornwall to the Outer Hebrides now have improved collection catalogues and are better equipped to assess the condition of public oil paintings to inform conservation, maintenance and restoration needs thanks to our Paintings project.
3. Making the UK a global trailblazer
Art UK is the first ever nationwide showcase of a country’s publicly owned art.
Dr Stephen Bury, Andrew W. Mellon Chief Librarian, The Frick Collection, New York, said: 'Art UK's innovative combination of digitized collections and crowdsourcing transforms art history and history itself. If only the USA had such a thing.'
4. Helping to sustain cultural venues across the UK for the benefit of their communities and the local economy
Here at Art UK we believe in the power of cultural venues to transform communities and strengthen local economies so we work hard to support the work they do.
For over 75% of the collections surveyed to date Art UK is the only place where the public can see their entire oil paintings collection online. On top of this we publicise exhibitions, support curatorial planning, and give copyright advice. Very soon we will launch a commercial platform that will enable the sector to generate much needed income.
Lauren Marshall, Hall Manager & Audience Development Officer, The Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York, said: 'Art UK is a vital resource for smaller collections and our visitors. It allows us to achieve things, which simply would not be possible on our own. It enables us to reach new audiences across the UK and internationally, highlighting the range and breadth of our collections. It also provides smaller collections with a platform for interaction and discussion, not just with other organisations but with art experts, academic institutions and the general public, enabling us to share and disseminate knowledge like never before.'
5. Showcasing the UK’s galleries and museums to audiences all over the world and encouraging cultural tourism
Evaluation of our work has proved that showing art works online makes people want to see them in real life. The number of onsite visitors to UK collections has increased as a direct result of Art UK, and its predecessor site Your Paintings. Interestingly, 50% of our web audience is now from overseas.
Rebecca Hill, Exhibitions and Collections Coordinator, Gallery Oldham, said: 'Over the past four years we have seen a steady increase in the number of enquiries about our oil paintings, with many of those enquiring directly citing Art UK as their first point of contact with our collections. I am thrilled that Art UK will soon include our collection’s artworks in other media, thus increasing awareness of these.'
6. Making incredible discoveries
Our award-winning Art Detective project has made excellent discoveries that have amazed the art world, revealed the lives of the artists behind our nation’s oil paintings, identified unknown war heroes and solved cases of mistaken identity.
To date 11,800 people have signed up to our Tagger project and generated over 2 million tags.
7. Taking great works of art into the classroom
Through our Masterpieces in Schools programme we have inspired students and teachers to use art for cross-curricular learning by taking great works of art into the classroom.
Evidence shows that engaging in culture can increase the likelihood of a young person going on to further and higher education. One recent government study showed that 16–18 year olds who participated in the arts and those who visited heritage sites or libraries were more likely to go on to further education in subsequent years.
8. Inspiring the next generation of creative talent
The creative industries are worth £9.6 million per hour to the UK’s economy and are renowned across the globe for driving growth, investment and tourism.
On Art UK anyone can become a curator, create online exhibitions and share the art they discover with friends and colleagues across social media. Art UK offers extensive links and pathways to learn more about the nation’s art. Links to Oxford University Press’s suite of online products give UK public library cardholders free access to 55,000 biographies in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, as well as content from Grove Art Online.
9. Making Art relevant and exciting for current and new audiences
Art UK contains over 180 articles that tell the human stories behind our nation’s art, from stories about how one member of the public came to have an artwork painted on her freezer to the history of the dentist detailed using artworks on Art UK. We are opening up the UK's collections for everyone to enjoy.
10. Building incredible partnerships for the benefit of communities and public institutions across the UK
Through our work to date we have built enduring relationships with art sector organisations, schools, universities, artists and audiences on a local and national scale, who have both benefited from and contributed to our mission: from the Scott Polar Research institute to the BBC, Tate to the British Dental Association’s Dental Museum, sculptor Richard Deacon to actor Michael Palin.
Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, Scottish Government, said:
'Art UK is a great example of what can be achieved through joint working and collaboration, delivering a level of public access and interaction with the nation’s collections, and a level of exposure for smaller bodies and collections, which could never be achieved by bodies working on their own. The Scottish Government continues to be very supportive of this and I commend Art UK on the significant progress they have made.'
Sarah Ellison-Masser, Art UK Development and Communication Manager