The National Gallery Summer on the Square

Summer on the Square

A free festival of immersive art, creativity and community

This summer, in partnership with Westminster City Council, the National Gallery will host its biggest ever free festival of immersive art, creativity and community on Trafalgar Square. There is no cost, and no tickets are required. It will run from 11–29 August.

The festival is a re-working of the Gallery’s art collection – creating an entirely new participatory set of experiences and activities that play with scale, spectacle and sound. Visitors will be able to immerse themselves in a purpose-built arts studio; participate in practical and walk-in art and sound installations; as well as sketching, making, moving, and exploring The National Gallery’s collection.

The sessions will be free, drop-in and open to all ages and abilities. During an unprecedented cost of living crisis, the National Gallery hopes the festival will be an opportunity for local and London-wide communities to enjoy art and celebrate their own creativity with friends and family – creating a space for wellbeing and joy in tough times.

Commenting, Chris Michaels, Director of Communications and Digital, at the National Gallery, said: ‘The National Gallery is an internationally recognised cultural institution but it is also becoming a more local and community-focused platform for creativity and education. Working with partners like Young Westminster Foundation, and with support from Westminster City Council, the annual Summer on the Square festival aims to build on its local impact and create a legacy for years to come.

We are designing, curating and innovating new ways to use digital, immersive and sound to enable people to investigate and explore art and our collection like never before – on the street, as part of their local community.’

Cllr Tim Roca, Cabinet Member for Young People, Learning and Leisure at Westminster City Council said: ‘One of the main aims the new administration has for the council is to make arts and culture accessible to everyone living in Westminster, not just the few – and this new, free, immersive outdoor festival hosted by the National Gallery is the perfect way to do this.

We’re pleased to be working with the National Gallery on this community-focused event and we want to encourage all residents, especially those who have never been to the National Gallery, to join in and come along, and bring all our communities in Westminster together.’

Programmes and activities

Immersive installations

Three large-scale immersive installations inspired by works in the Gallery’s collection will be popping up outside the Gallery. The first will look at A Wheatfield, with Cypresses (1889) by Vincent van Gogh, exploring the ways in which he masterfully employed light and colour in his paintings.

The second will be focused on music, with specially created soundtracks to evoke the colourful sounds of four masterpieces in the collection – William Hogarth’s The Graham Children (1742); Water-Lilies, Setting Sun (about 1907), Monet; Sunflowers (1888), Van Gogh; and The Battle of San Romano (about 1397–1475), Paolo Uccello.

The third will transport visitors into Edouard Manet’s Music in the Tuileries Gardens (1862), allowing them to experience the colours and textures of the scene.

Art Studio

Summer on the Square will feature a purpose-built art studio with a programme of free drop-in workshop events, exploring community and creativity. The creative responses of participants to Summer on the Square sessions may be guided by the works in the Gallery’s collection, the surroundings of Trafalgar Square, or interactions with others taking part. All the nation’s budding artists will be encouraged to share their work on social media by tagging @nationalgallery.
Other programmes and activities will include

  • Exploring Nature – explore experimental drawing techniques, taking plants and nature as inspiration.
  • What’s through the doorway? – sessions of art, singing and moving to set you up for your own adventure in the Gallery.
  • Find the Flow – energise your body and explore movement, meaning and conversation within this year’s Take One Picture focus painting ‘The Finding of Moses’.
  • Frame: a circus for drawing by Circus250 – run away and draw the circus! A live drawing experience with real circus performers doing their astounding tricks for you.
  • Tell your Story with the Young Westminster Foundation – think about words and how we communicate through them and create a collaborative piece of spoken word poetry.
  • Painting in the 3rd dimension – transform paintings into 3D installations collaborative activity.

The full programme and timings can be found at:

The connection to the National Gallery and its collection

With the use of digital platforms, QR codes, and new National Gallery programmes such as the Keeper of Paintings app, visitors will be encouraged to enter and explore the Gallery after their session on a self-led journey to find paintings which have inspired the workshops.

Sustainability legacy

Fundamental to the festival is the overarching aim to reuse, reskin and repurpose over the coming years the equipment and structures. The National Gallery is aiming to minimise the use of single use material, and aims to build structures which can be adapted and modified to allow for any year on year or event to event alterations.

Find out more about BETA member The National Gallery here

Published 15 August 2022