IF you've been through Exhibition Square in the last few days, you might have noticed that five colourful new works of art have been installed in niches high up on the gallery's face.

They bring a welcome touch of brightness to the Victorian building. But these are not expensive commissions that cost the gallery a small fortune. No, these new artworks were all created by children - York children, to be precise.

Last year, York Art Gallery and the York Civic Trust teamed up to launch a primary schools painting competition.

The challenge: to paint an 'alternative view' of York based upon a famous painting by John Piper in the gallery's collection.

No fewer than 15 schools took part - many sending in several entries from different classes. In all, something like 2,000 children were involved in the project.

The children were asked to interpret the painting in their own way - and they certainly did that. Entries included a 3-D model of the city's key buildings; another model of the city made entirely from sweets; collages; artworks made from felt; and a host of drawings and paintings.

York Press:

Osbaldwick Primary School's view of a futuristic York

From that mass of entries, judges chose five winners. We featured the winning children's works of art in The Press a couple of weeks ago. But the story didn't end there. A professional artist was then sent into the schools to work with each of the five winning classes, producing five final 'polished' artworks - and it is these which have now been installed on the front of the gallery.

York Press:

Copmanthorpe Primary School's artwork

An exhibition of the children's original artwork has also now opened inside the gallery - so you can go and see the work up close, before then looking up at the works displayed prominently outside the building for all York to see.

The new exhibition inside the gallery, 'An Alternative View of York', was officially declared open last week by Sir John Lawton, the York Museums Trust's chairman.

"It is great to see the artworks that were produced as part of our latest schools project on display," said Gaby Lees, the assistant curator of arts and learning at York Art Gallery. "Inspiring young children to be creative and imaginative is very important to us. The new exhibition ...is bursting with colourful, exciting pieces depicting York as school children see it today and, who knows, some of them could be the work of the next John Piper, LS Lowry or Albert Moore."

York Press:

Knavesmire Primary School's finished work

"It is very exciting to see the children's work on the front of the art gallery," added Verna Campbell, chair of the York Civic Trust's education committee, which organised the exhibition in collaboration with the gallery. "Our aim (at the civic trust's education committee) is to help the young people of York become more aware of the culture and heritage of their city. What a wonderful way this is of achieving that!"

James Rourke, the former head of Rufforth Primary - one of the winning schools - who has just moved to Lord Deramore's, said one of the great things about the competition was the way it engaged with children.

York Press:

Rufforth Primary School's artwork

"Some children have never experienced coming to an art gallery," Mr Rourke said. "Getting them involved in a project such as this really opens them up to the possibilities of creativity and culture."

Best of all, you can imagine the sense of pride the children will have every time they come near the art gallery and see their work on display...

York Press:

Danesgate Community School's finished work

  • The 'An Alternative View of York' exhibition featuring work by children in York's primary schools will be on display in the art gallery's project room until July 30. Entry to this part of the gallery is free.

The winning entries

The winning entries - and the professional artists who worked with the children to produce the final works of art - were:

Knavesmire Primary, Year 1, working with artist Maria Keki

Copmanthorpe Primary, Year 5, with artist Vivienne Morpeth

Danesgate Community School, Years 5 & 6, working with artist Griselda Goldsborough

Osbaldwick Primary, Year 6, working with artist Jake Attree

Rufforth Primary, Years 1 & 2, working with artist Emily Stubbs