For little helping hands, Gormley goes back to the classroom

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The Independent Online

His work has inspired art lovers and critics but yesterday Antony Gormley was being judged by the most candid examiners of all - schoolchildren.

His work has inspired art lovers and critics but yesterday Antony Gormley was being judged by the most candid examiners of all - schoolchildren.

The sculptor, most famous for creating the Angel of the North, was visiting a north London infants' school as part of Big Arts Week, which aims to introduce youngsters to creative skills.

On a day when one of his pieces - Quantum Cloud XIV - was auctioned at a record price of £94,650 at a Bonhams modern & contemporary art sale, Gormley was at Broadfields Infant and Nursery School to give a hand with a project inspired by his Turner prize-winning work, Field for the British Isles, which consists of 40,000 figures.

Now 260 pupils, aged three to seven, at the school in Edgware are assembling their own version by creating clay models of themselves, adding individual features such as a favourite football or goldfish.

Lindsey Shaw, the deputy head, said that the youngsters were excited to meet an artist. "All children have a sense of what an artist is, but to actually meet someone whose work they have seen was very exciting for them.

"He was amazing. He sat down and just started talking to them, focusing on the work they are doing and they asked him questions like 'How did you make the Angel of the North?' "

Despite the fact the creative industries are worth more than £67bn a year, 80 per cent of teachers in the UK complain they are hard-pushed to offer pupils anything more than a rudimentary introduction to the creative world.

The organisers of Big Arts Week are hoping that the hundreds of artists - from composers to clothing designers - taking part will be able to inspire the talent of the future. Supporters include the artist Anish Kapoor, the author Ben Okri and the comedian Harry Enfield.

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