Andria Zafirakou, winner of the $1 million Varkey Foundation global teacher prize, is recruiting painters, musicians, dancers, actors, illustrators, film makers and comedians to become “artists in residence” at schools in the capital and inspire a generation of children.
Musician Naughty Boy, broadcaster Melvyn Bragg and historian Sir Simon Schama today threw weight behind the campaign, which is supported by the Evening Standard and will focus on schools in deprived communities.
She is using her winnings to kickstart the project after becoming alarmed at the declining number of students studying arts subjects amid funding cuts and the focus on more academic subjects in schools.
Ms Zafirakou, 39, said: “Subjects such as art, music and drama are being squeezed out of the curriculum at a time when they have never been more important. Too often we neglect the power of the arts to transform lives for the better, particularly in the poorest communities.”
“We need the creatives to inspire our children and stir our teachers. When a child meets an artist the memory is with them for years — we need to get that sense of hope back into the lives of our children. You can’t get it from a textbook or YouTube video.”
Thirty London schools in areas with high deprivation will be matched with an artist in residence. As more artists join the scheme it will be rolled out across the capital and the rest of the country.
Conceptual artist and painter Michael Craig-Martin, known as the Godfather of the Young British Artists, is one of the many high-profile supporters. He said he met a “real artist” at the age of 14 and it made him realise it was possible to make a living out of art. “Very often the arts are presented as a bourgeois luxury,” he added.
Naughty Boy said: “I urge schools and artists across the capital to sign up so we can bring creative talent into our schools, helping the next generation to experience the transformative power of art.”
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