The Duchess of Cambridge has urged young people to overcome the "intimidating" reputation of museums to visit them, as she takes on a new patronage at the Foundling Museum.
The Duchess admitted it could be "quite intimidating" for children and teenagers to visit institutions if they "don't know it's for them", saying they only needed to step inside to find programmes and exhibitions created with them in mind.
During a visit to the Foundling Museum, she spoke of her passionate belief in the "power of art", saying: "By weaving together the moving stories of looked after children, with art and artists of all genres, you create meaningful learning experiences which will have a lasting, and often transformational, impact on young lives."
The Duchess is already patron of the V&A and National Portrait Gallery, and now becomes a public advocate for the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury, which tells the story of the Foundling Hospital - the UK’s first children’s charity and public art gallery - and today works with children in care.
In a speech shortly after her patronage was announced, she said: “Your work connects and celebrates two subjects that are deeply important to me: children, and art.
“I am passionate about improving children’s life chances and giving them opportunities, so that they can look forward to the best possible futures, fulfil their whole potential, and have the freedom to explore their creativity.
“I have always believed in the power of art, not only to unlock that creativity, but also to bring us joy, and to inspire, challenge and positively change our lives.”
The Duchess, who wore the same outfit she had worn to visit King’s College London that morning, began her visit by meeting young adults who have taken part in the museum’s “Tracing Our Tales” programme to train them up to teach creative classes to the next generation.
In discussion with Rohima Poosch, 20, who is one of the major success stories of the programme and now works at the museum, the Duchess asked how she had heard about the traineeship and how it had helped her.
"Sometimes at museums there is a feeling, particularly for young people, going into museum spaces is quite intimidating,” the Duchess said. "They don't know it's for them.
"But when you step inside and see the different programmes going on, they realise [it's for them]."
Her words echo those of Britain’s arts leaders, with major institutions working for years to overcome reputations of elitism or inaccessibility to encourage young people through their doors.
Moving on to talk about career progression, and how the trainees are now helping other young people to learn about the museum, the Duchess said: “To have that inspiration about what you want to do, sometimes that’s the hardest thing - knowing what you want to do and having the confidence to stick with it.”
“The fact you have gone through the programme, you know how it feels for youngsters coming through. That probably really helps.”
The Duchess was then shown a photography exhibition, Bedrooms of London by Katie Wilson, which shows the deprived, cramps, insecure conditions some children are living in in Britain.
One of her guides, 20-year-old Callum, has lived in 14 different homes and told her her had selected a favourite photograph which featured a black bin liner because it represented his own experience of never feeling able to unpack his belongings.
“It’s amazing considering the hardship you’ve gone through that you’ve chosen this,” she said. "It's so moving, it really is.
“Hold on in there, you’re doing a great job.”
The Duchess also viewed two other pictures chosen by Rohima and her coursemate Ameera Patel, 20.
“It’s taken so much courage as a young person to get to that stage to reach out,” she said, of the importance of them seeking help.
“It’s fantastic that you have. “It’s very moving to hear your stories.
“It’s amazing that you’ve got involved in the programme. Hats off to you all for having that inspiration and well done for sticking with it.”
The mother-of-three then sat down to join teenagers in an art lesson, learning to lino cut before rolling green paint over her own picture of tree branches.
“I can’t take credit for this,” she laughed, pointing at the young creatives who had helped her.
In a drinks reception, accompanied by a string quintet from Chineke! Orchestra, the Duchess was announced to a room full of patrons, donors and supporters as the Foundling Museum.
Taking in a warm round of applause, she looked a little shy, feeling her cheeks and telling those standing near her: “I’m going to blush.”
In a speech, she said: “I feel hugely proud today to be here today to become Patron of the Foundling Museum.
“Your work connects and celebrates two subjects that are deeply important to me: children, and art.
“I could not be more delighted to support such a special organisation. I look forward to working together and, as your Patron, hopefully doing all I can to help your important mission in the future.”
Larissa Joy, chair of trustees at the Foundling Museum, said: “We are delighted and honoured that Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge has become Patron of the Foundling Museum.
“We could not imagine a more perfect Patron. We look forward to working with her as we fulfil our mission to inspire people to make positive impact on society through the arts.”