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The artist Frank Bowling has collaborated with the Cultural Institute of Radical Contemporary Art (Circa) to produce a limited-edition screenprint, with proceeds used to send £500,000 worth of art supplies to 100 UK primary schools. The “Circa Pipeline” project was developed in response to the fall in quality art education across the country. Its launch coincides with the abstract painter’s 90th birthday, with signed editions available via the Circa website, priced at £7,200.

The 14-layer screenprint, titled Understanding Frank, was produced by Coriander Studio and depicts a collage made using Bernard H Gundlach’s Understanding Numbers colouring book. The original piece was conceived for the exhibition Dialects: Diverse Bookworks by Black and Hispanic Artists in 1980. It is the only work by the artist—who is also known for his dramatic cartographic paintings—to feature a map of the British Isles.

Black and white photograph of Frank Bowling in his Broadway studio in front of a map painting, by Tina Tranter

This new programme is open to state schools across the country, with successful candidates receiving canvases, brushes, pencils, sketchbooks and more. The materials are accompanied by a six-week tuition programme developed with Frank Bowling Studio, The University of London’s Goldsmiths College and Findel Education—an organisation specialising in teaching resources. The project will encourage children between the ages of 5 and 11 to produce art based on Bowling’s work, with results displayed on the Piccadilly Lights in the summer of 2025.

This is not the first time Bowling has made a meaningful contribution to British arts education. In the 1970s and 1980s he taught at Camberwell college and Byam Shaw School of Art, and in 2022 he set up a scholarship programme at the Royal College of Art. This funding supports 24 students from Black African and Caribbean diaspora heritage, at masters and doctorate level.

Frank Bowling proofing prints of Understanding Frank (2023)

In this latest initiative the focus is instead on cultivating creativity in mainstream education, from an early age. As the artist explains, “Access to materials isn’t just about creating; it’s about nurturing possibility […] young children need schools to be a place of artistic possibilities. It’s not just about making art; it’s about making sure they feel empowered to create, no matter what. Let’s spark that fire early on.”

Arrival by Sir Frank Bowling, Berlin, Limes, Kurfürstendamm

According to Circa founder Josef O’Connor, “So much of Frank’s practice is about creating legacy. I don’t think of this project as simply buying a print. People get to be a part of a community that is directly contributing to something meaningful.” He also points to the significance of introducing school children to a renowned Black artist, who is a master of abstraction. “The majority of state funded art education centres around white men,” O’Connor adds. “You’ll have Picasso, Matisse and Van Gogh. This project isn’t just about materials, it’s about inspiring students and teachers alike, and moving beyond the traditional canon.”

Art materials supplied by Findel Education

These thoughts are echoed by Nicola Wilson, headteacher of George Tomlinson Primary in Leytonstone, east London. In a film released to celebrate the launch of Circa Pipeline she says, “A lot of schools try very, very hard to teach art well. The reality is that without funding for materials and training for teachers, and without support from local authorities and government, schools cannot do it on their own.”

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