The MAC in Belfast has formed a new partnership with six post-primary schools from across Northern Ireland as it steps up its commitment to bringing the joy of the arts to young people in what will be a three-year project.

The scheme aims to cultivate an exchange between teachers, artists and the MAC to demonstrate the value of art education in schools.

It has received support through a significant grant as part of the prestigious Freelands Foundation Autumn 2023 Fund, designed to develop new approaches which reimagine art education.

Pupils from Newry High School, Cullybackey College, Hazelwood Integrated College (Newtownabbey), St Louise’s Comprehensive College (Belfast), St Benedict’s College (Randalstown) and Saint Conor’s College (Portglenone) will all be taking part in the programme.

As part of the innovative project, artist teachers will undertake fellowships based at the MAC.

Classroom time will move to the MAC, where teachers and students will have full access to resources and the MAC team, and the MAC artistic team will become residents in school, exploring curating and artmaking.

Socially engaged artists will be co-commissioned to collaborate with each artist teacher and their students.

Lisa McGinley, interim director at the MAC, said everyone at the venue is enthusiastic about what the project can achieve.

“This funding from Freelands Foundation will enable us to bring to life an ambitious co-designed project and make it possible for us to support artist teachers in a meaningful way to critically develop their practice,” she said.

“Since the MAC was established, a key priority of our work has been enabling children and young people to grow with us.

“Over the next three years, we will champion artist teachers and inspire students, shifting the perception of arts education in schools and reinstating the value of art within the education system so students are encouraged to undertake careers in the creative industries and impact on wider society.”

Joanne Fitzpatrick, head of art and design at Hazelwood Integrated College, said the school was delighted that its application to take part had been successful.

“Throughout this project we hope to embark on an exciting journey to elevate the role of art in education,” she added.

“We hope to encourage improved creativity, innovation and enjoyment of art and design for our students, teachers and the wider community.

“This project will allow us to empower young minds beyond the confines of traditional learning within the classroom and experience experimental approaches to art education.”

The project will begin in September and continue until 2027.