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Why do we have public sculpture?

Public sculptures are artworks, statues and monuments that are displayed in public places, usually outdoors. There are many different types of public sculpture. Here are a few examples:



Memorials that commemorate war, disasters, remember people who have died, or to people who have done something brave.

Click through to the artworks' pages to discover their stories.



Statues representing people considered important at the time. This includes national figures, such as kings and queens, people with a place in local history, and particularly in the past, people who were rich and powerful.

Public opinion of the people honoured with statues can change over time. For example, Bristol's statue of Edward Colston was thrown into the harbour by protesters in 2020.


Sculptures that tell us something about the place, celebrate something the place is famous for, or become part of what makes a place special.



Art put in public spaces to make it a better place to live in or visit. Draped Seated Woman, for example, was part of a project to put sculptures in housing estates to educate the people who lived there, improve their lives and living standards, and to encourage artists to keep making art after the Second World War.


Discuss public sculpture that your class knows, or use examples from Art UK. What do your students think the purpose of each sculpture is?

Sculptures with stories

Like Draped Seated Woman, many public sculptures have interesting histories. Some statues were created after public campaigns; some sculptures were protested after they were put up; some sculptures have been moved, replaced, broken, or even stolen. Lots of people have personal stories and memories of sculptures, from climbing on Draped Seated Woman to enjoying Angel of the North.

These sculptures each have a story, click through to the artworks' pages to discover them.

Research a local statue

Task students with finding and researching a public sculpture close to your school.

To find local sculptures, use Art UK's map. Zoom in on the red dots on the map. Some will be art venues, and other dots will show public sculptures; if no sculptures are visible now, they may be added later. Alternatively, you can use Art UK's artwork search and choose your region from the drop-down menu.

Students can discuss their chosen sculpture, analysing its purpose and setting, and sharing any personal connections they have to it. This will enable them to come up with questions, which can form the starting point for further research. The artworks page on Art UK will provide some useful information, including who owns the sculpture and who made it, which students may wish to investigate further.

There are several ways students can research their sculpture, local archives and libraries may be able to help. Like the students from Lansbury Lawrence Primary School, your students may wish to collect oral histories, recording recollections from each other, family members or school staff. The Oral History Society has a helpful guide to getting started with oral history.

Share your discoveries

Lansbury Lawrence Primary School students recorded their exploration of Draped Seated Woman in various ways, including drawing, recording oral histories, making a film, and creating animation. This activity focusses on using animation to bring your class's chosen sculptures and their stories to life.

Plan your animations

Ask the students to plan their animations before they begin animating. You might ask them to consider:

  • How will they incorporate their research into their animation? Which part of the sculpture's history do they want to tell?
  • Will their animation have a narrative? Or will they animate an action that can be looped, like a gif
  • Will they incorporate sound into the animation, or will it be silent?
  • How will they make their cut-outs for their animations? They might like to draw the sculpture themselves or use an existing image, printed, cut out and glued on card.
  • They could draw paper characters or add backgrounds to help to convey the sculpture's story, like the students from Lansbury Lawrence who made a paper cut out of a person climbing the sculpture.
  • Encourage students to experiment with different materials, they might like to use magazine cuttings, fruit peels or leaves. 





To create their animations, students will need:

  • a tablet or smartphone
  • animation software. For example, Stop-motion Studio, a free app available for iPad, iOS, Android and Windows devices.
  • drawing equipment, scissors and paper
  • split pins or Blu Tack
  • a tablet or phone holder, tripod or selfie stick to keep your device steady
  • if possible, a printer, to print images from Art UK
  • a lamp (optional)

Step 2

Set up workstations. A flat surface such as a desk or floor is needed for working in 2D. Support the tablet or phone with a tripod or stack of books, and make sure there is consistent lighting, for example from a lamp.

Extension activities

Animate sculptures in a fictional story with a flipbook. A flipbook contains pages with images that change slightly every time a page is turned and if the pages are turned quickly, they will appear as a moving image. In this example of a flipbook, the artist has imagined Seated Draped Woman leaving London to go deep-sea diving. The storyboard above can be used as a template: draw the flipbook pictures on the panels, cut each panel out, stack and staple them to create a book.

You might like to start a scrapbook project using the research students have collated – include sketches, notes, drawings, audio recordings, video footage, and photographs.

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