We need art now more than ever

Shefali Saxena Wednesday 08th September 2021 02:47 EDT

Art Bytes is ​​a new national, inter-school art competition, using art & technology to champion creativity in schools across England. 100 per cent of its teachers have claimed that this concept has improved confidence in children. In an exclusive interview with Asian Voice, the team explained how they’re marrying art with technology. 


Briefly explain the concept of Art Bytes for our readers.

Art Bytes is a new, national programme for primary, secondary and SEND schools, combining an inter-school art competition with a virtual gallery and augmented reality technology. It’s based on 9 years of our experience leading dot-art Schools - our forerunner programme - in the North West. This has been proven to nurture talent, raise ambition and develop confidence, as well as support mental health and help develop vital skills for future employment.


How can you marry technology and art to facilitate better creative learning?

Art Bytes utilises a bespoke, immersive, virtual gallery incorporating augmented reality elements. It gives participants the opportunity to see their art exhibited online and engage with new technology from the safety and convenience of their own home or school.


The accessibility of the format allows children and young people to see art galleries as places “for them”, building their confidence as they see that their work belongs to a setting like this. This acts as encouragement for future cultural engagement.


Technology has become much more integrated into supporting learning over the last year, including in art and creative subjects. Augmented reality technology offers a great way to engage with artworks more closely, acting as a self-led way of discovering areas of interest and as a gateway to independent discovery. Students may also use digital tools to create, edit and present their own art and design work – though doing so is not necessary for entering Art Bytes.


Our unique virtual curator tool offers students the chance to be a curator, designing their own exhibition in a virtual gallery.


Why should schools sign up on your platform, especially when there's a lot to catch up already when schools reopen? How can Art Bytes improve learning?


As schools return the curriculum has to focus not just on catch-up, but on pupil well-being and the impact the pandemic has had on young people. The positive impact of our forerunner programme, dot-art Schools, on students’ mental health and well-being has been proven.


Research carried out by Liverpool Hope University and Curious Minds showed that taking part in dot-art Schools nurtures children and young people’s creativity and boosts their confidence. We learnt that the students gain a measurable sense of self-respect from the process. Participating in the competition can also raise students’ aspirations and engage student’s families. 


We know that the pandemic has increased the disadvantage gap markedly; engaging with dot-art Schools helps build valuable cultural capital in students. The skills developed in creative subjects play an essential role in learning and developing the skills for future career success. We know that the creative industries are the fastest-growing in the UK. Art and creative subjects develop the creative thinking skills needed for future success.


 Since in-person classes took a back seat during the pandemic, creativity may not have been nurtured among students as much as it should be. Can Art Bytes help in reviving and nurturing that aspect of learning?

We know that creativity can play a key role in helping children and young people process and express their emotions, which is particularly important at this time. Our hope is that schools which participate in Art Bytes will be able to not only raise the profile of art and design in their own school but also to students families, and the wider community.


- What kind of partnerships do you have so far?

A broad range of schools have already signed up to participate in Art Bytes 2021-2022 including state schools, academies, faith schools, independent schools and special schools. We are keen to welcome a really diverse mix of primary and secondary schools and their creative Year 5 and Year 9 students to be represented in the competition. 


We are delighted to be partnering with a high profile cultural venue in each of the nine regions of England to deliver Art Bytes. As well as lending their expertise in arts education, each will host a celebration event every June.

We can now announce the first eight partner venues!

· North West: The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

· North East: The Baltic, Gateshead

· Yorkshire and Humber: Leeds Art Gallery

· East Midlands: Derby Quad

· West Midlands, New Art Gallery Walsall

· South West: Arnolfini, Bristol

· South East: Modern Art Oxford

· East of England, Wysing Arts Centre


The Art Bytes team is super excited to be collaborating which such fantastic venues and cannot wait to start working together!


We are also honoured to have representatives from respected national organisations National Society for Education in Art & Design (NSEAD), The Big Draw and Access Art on the judging panel for Art Bytes.



What according to you, is the future of art post the pandemic?

We need art now more than ever. Based on the popularity of shows like Grayson's Art Club it’s clear many people also value creativity more since the lockdowns. Many people took up new art activities as a way of improving their mental health and hopefully will continue to enjoy being creative.


To acknowledge the idea that we can all continue being creative and demonstrate that to students we set up Teachers’ Corner, an online space for art teachers. Teachers’ Corner offers art educators a chance to showcase their own creativity by sharing artwork – our exhibition of submissions launches online at artbytes.co.uk from Monday 6th September.


How can institutions, parents and government work together to keep the arts economy afloat?


By always flying the flag for art and creativity. Celebrate the arts, advocate for it as a subject in school, support your local artists, visit and engage with arts & cultural venues. Encourage your children to keep making and creating, as they are the future.


If you’re an artist or creative reading this why not become an Art Bytes ambassador to help spread the word about the importance of creativity? It’s easy - just make a 30-second video clip introducing yourself and responding to one of these questions:

What is the role of the artist in today's society?

Where has creativity taken you?

How do you use creativity in your daily life?

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