If inner-city youngsters don't go to Edgbaston's Barber Institute of Fine Arts, then the Barber Institute will go to the inner city. Jo Ind reports...
The scene is a primary school not far from the City Hospital in Birmingham. Children, aged seven to 11, are sitting cross-legged on the floor.
After a count of three, the Pastoral Landscape painted by Claude Lorrain in 1645, which has been hidden behind a black cloth on an easel, is unveiled to the sound of almost 200 gasps of delight from around the school hall.
There is an audible buzz of excitement as they see the work by the great master and go on to hear that this picture is a copy but the original can be seen at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts just a few miles away.
This is St Edmund?s Roman Catholic Primary School in Spring Hill, near Ladywood. The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, situated on Birmingham University campus in leafy Edgbaston, is visiting the school as part of a tour of 20 schools on its ArtReach! project.
Lady Barber, founder of the Institute, aimed for the place to be for the study and encouragement of art and music: ArtReach! develops that aim by going out into schools to introduce new people to its collection.
?Quite a low percentage of visitors from the Barber are from non-white backgrounds,? says Andrew Davies, Barber press and marketing officer.
?That doesn?t mean that people from non-white backgrounds are not interested in us, but it might mean they don?t know about us.
?By going out into schools in socially-excluded areas we are reaching an audience who probably don?t know what the Barber has to offer.?
ArtReach! is about a lot more than presenting a copy of a painting to the children and telling them what made it great.
It employs Annamation, a theatreineducation company. There is an almost pantomime element to the way the company explains concepts like impressionism and perspective.
Susanna Willetts starts by asking if the children want to go on a time travel machine to meet a famous artist from the 17th century.
The youngsters mime getting into the machine and meeting, through two stops, Claude Monet, played by Anna Gow, and Claude Lorrain, played by Anna Conomos.
To much giggles and excitement from the children, the actors play out the story of how Claude Lorraine started landscape painting.
In the process they explain how the invention of oil paints meant that Claude Monet could paint outside while Claude Lorrain had to paint in a studio because he had to keep making up his paints and the difference that that made to their paintings.
A lesson in perspective becomes a game in which the youngsters volunteer to put up different-sized trees made of felt on a big background, so they can see how the bigger trees need to be in the foreground and the smaller ones at the back.
Once entertained by that, Claude Lorrain?s work is revealed to them, by which time they had a real appreciation of what he created.
Later Claude Monet?s The Church at Varengeville of 1882 is unveiled to a similar effect and the children are asked to clap hard or soft to show which painting they appreciate more.
Lorrain?s work wins by a considerable thunder clap of enthusiastic hands.
Jodie McCalla, aged nine, said: ?That was my favourite bit. I liked the painting by Claude Lorrain best because there are people in it.?
PJ Goodwin, aged ten, said: ?I liked the Lorrain best because you could see all the detail.?
Chanique Hemans said: ?I liked the whole show. I liked it when you had to stick the trees on the landscape.?
Stephen Clarke, art co-ordinator at St Edmund?s Roman Catholic Primary School in Spring Hill, said: ?It was very good. They were enthralled. They really held their attention.?
Susanna says it is important to do more than give children a tour of an art gallery.
?If you just take them round they won?t respond to a picture because they won?t have a relationship with it,? she says.
?What we do is tell them the story behind it. We tell the story of the artist and how he became interested in the subject.
?And when we do that the children are captivated by the painting. It brings it to life for them.?
It is too early to say whether the youngsters have become keen visitors of art galleries as a result of the Barber Institute ArtReach!
But what is indisputable is that they have gasped at the sight of two pieces of fine art.