Working to counteract the gloom of the ongoing pandemic, people across the UK have been invited to make works of art to display in their front windows and outside spaces in a celebration of creativity that will form the nation’s largest ever exhibition. People can work as individuals or as a community, by joining up ‘virtually’ with their street, school, temple, church, shopping centre or football team to produce a memorable and exciting artwork.

The Great Big Art Exhibition was launched on the 28th January 2021 with a call to the UK population to start getting creative. The event has been put together by Firstsite, an initiative based in Colchester, Essex, whose gallery and online presence provide new creative opportunities and promote imaginative responses to contemporary issues. Exhibition entries can be displayed in gardens, front windows, doorways or balconies and can take the form of drawings, paintings, sculptures or any other form of visual artwork.

The project has now gained support from a long list of established artists including Ryan Gander, Etel Adnan and Simone Fattal, Tai Shani, Jeremy Deller, David Shrigley and Ai Weiwei. Each fortnight, a different theme selected by a different artist is to be introduced, and we’ve already seen Antony Gormley’s “Animals” theme and Sonia Boyce’s “Portraits” theme. We are now in the third fortnight of the project, with participants invited to create art that fits the theme of “Colour”, set by Anish Kapoor.

Anish Kapoor 2021

Anish Kapoor, 2021.

Sally Shaw MBE, Director of Firstsite, says: “The doors to our collections and galleries might be shut but our imaginations are forever open. Making, showing and experiencing art has created so much joy, connection and solace for many thousands of people. I can’t wait to see a brand new nationwide art gallery appearing before our eyes in coming days, weeks and months. This is sure to be an incredible expression of people’s creativity.”

Artworks can be made of anything. Aspiring artists in need of inspiration, a template or something to colour in can access key works from across the UK online, which are being made available to download by Firstsite, who are presenting this exhibition in celebration of their 10th anniversary. The exhibition is supported by the Plus Tate Network which includes leading museums and galleries across the UK.

David Shrigley 2021

David Shrigley, 2021.

Institutions supporting this project include the National Gallery, Tate, British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, National Galleries of Scotland, V&A, National Museums Liverpool, Royal Academy of Arts, the Ashmolean Museum, The Courtauld, The Wallace Collection and Arts Council Collection, and directors from each of these institutions have selected and shared works that they feel will inspire exhibition participants.

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, says: “Creative activities have provided a huge boost for physical, mental and emotional well-being, as well as encouraging a sense of community, during the pandemic.  We are delighted to support The Great Big Art Exhibition which will inspire more people and local groups within our communities to express themselves and get creative.”

Those that want to take part can do so by accessing the resources and instructions available at It is hoped that by summer 2021, a colourful patchwork of nationwide creativity will be visible throughout the country, with new works created from late January until the end of April.

Artwork depicting animals created by left to right Stephanie aged 8 Benjamin aged 6 and Shalomy aged 10 which will be displayed on a row of houses in Acton London. Photo David Parry PA Wire

Artwork depicting animals, created by (left to right) Stephanie, aged 8, Benjamin, aged 6 and Shalomy, aged 10 which will be displayed on a row of houses in Acton, London. (Photo: David Parry, PA Wire)

Article by Toby Buckley.

You can find more artwork created for the project on Instagram using #TheGreatBigArtExhibition2021

Hero image: Artwork depicting animals, created by (left to right) Romey and Iggy is displayed in the windows of a row of houses in Acton, London. Photo: David Parry, PA Wire.