About the project

envision was a pioneering young people’s programme working nationally with galleries to achieve sustainable youth-friendly outcomes.

The programme contributed to government and Arts Council priorities by building a culture of youth participation in galleries, offering opportunities for young people to access the arts, particularly those who are hard to reach.

envision was managed by Engage and funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government and Arts Council England Grants for the Arts, with support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Yorkshire Building Society Charitable Trust and the Rayne Foundation.

The envision programme worked to:

  • Support gallery initiatives involving vulnerable and at risk young people aged 14-21 in consultation and decisionmaking activities
  • Offer a range of professional development activities, seminars and briefing days providing information and resources around youth friendly practice
  • Make long-term links with strategic partner organisations to help deliver and embed the programme nationally
  • Create a legacy of good practice and resources to be widely disseminated to other organisations
  • Acknowledge, showcase and recognise good practice through a Youth-Friendly Arts Venue Awards Scheme
  • Challenge attitudes amongst the wider community about the potential of gallery spaces and the potential of young people


envision was set up in response to research highlighting young people’s lack of participation in the arts: Crossing the Line–- Extending Young People’s Access to Cultural Venues, Arts Council and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1999, and the Engage Conference 16:25> ART, October 2001, which highlighted significant gaps in provision and knowledge and evidenced demand for resources and training opportunities. 

The focus was informed by widespread consultation with young people and professionals across the sector. Projects took place in galleries with young people and evidence emerged about the unique and valuable role galleries can play in young people’s lives, in particular supporting the re-engagement and personal, social and educational development of those experiencing, or at risk of, exclusion.

Young people are high on the national agenda. At the time of this project’s initiation there was a national focus on the need to find new and joined up strategies to engaging with young people in positive, community and educational activity in the light of escalating antisocial behaviour, youth crime, teenage pregnancy, youth disaffection and dis-engagement from mainstream education. New national policies, strategies and the transformation of services for children and young people were being implemented including: Children’s Trusts, Every Child Matters, Youth Matters, Extended Schools, Transforming Youth Services, Russell Commission for Volunteering, government ‘Learning to Listen’ agenda and the National Youth Agency Hear by Right resources. 

envision helped visual arts venues to understand this environment, explore their own potential responses, and develop new expertise, practice and policy to implement long-term strategy. envision played a unique role championing and facilitating sector development at a national level.

Research and Development Bursaries

A significant element of the envision programme was delivered through research development projects with galleries. The projects involving at least 170 young people in core activities and additional young people and their families/ carers in wider celebratory and consultation activities. The projects were supported by two residential training events for venues and their partners, and a Regional Support Coordinator was appointed to help develop regional peer networks.

Projects were managed locally by the venue and planned and delivered in collaboration with young people and partner agencies. The format and approach of each project was flexible, to meet the requirements of the partner agencies and young people.

Each partnership brought together young people, artists and staff using creative activity to build relationships, confidence and skills. This included volunteering, team tasks, communication and problem solving, expression of ideas using creative media, project management and decisionmaking. Venues were encouraged to accredit the young people’s work through Arts Award, Open College Network and other qualifications appropriate to the local context.

Projects used creative techniques to review practice and develop policy and provision to genuinely meet young people’s needs and interests. Projects helped colleagues within each gallery to initiate a process of change, designed specifically to facilitate collaboration, involvement and commitment across the organisation, including senior management, to begin to embed a ‘youth-friendly’ culture at the heart of the gallery.

Youth-friendly Arts Venue Award Scheme

As a culmination of the programme, envision developed a Youth-friendly Arts Venue Award Scheme funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The scheme promoted art venues as accessible and relevant places for young people, championing good practice and celebrating achievements through a live showcase of young people’s creative work. The idea for the awards arose from discussions with young people involved in the initial envision projects, and these young people were keen to help develop and put the scheme into practice.

There were two awards; the main award for work with young people initiated through a partnership either directly with young people themselves, or from an informal youth arts context, and a special award for work taking place in arts venues of benefit to young people excluded from or at risk of exclusion from school (developed through a collaboration with a Pupil Referral Unit or Learning Support Unit).