The cultural education of Dame Vivien Duffield began early. At home she could gaze on the works of art collected by her father, Sir Charles Clore, millionaire businessman and owner of the Selfridges department store. And at private school in Paris, she would go with her class to the Louvre every week. "It was wonderful. We had a book in which we used to stick postcard reproductions. I've still got them somewhere."
This upbringing left her with her two important legacies: a love of the arts and a lot of money. Luckily, she also inherited from her father a sense of noblesse oblige, continuing his philanthropic works after his death in 1979, when she took over the Clore Foundation, eventually merging it with her own arts education charity four years ago to form the Clore Duffield Foundation, which sponsors the Artworks scheme. Now in its fifth year, Artworks has become the showpiece awards for school art, with an exhibition at the Tate Modern, and prizes of pound;2,000 for each of the 30 winning schools.
Winners also receive a limited edition print by a well-known artist. In the past Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor and Julian Opie have contributed works.
This year's winners received a photographic print by Marc Quinn. "We were going to get a Hockney but there was a bit of a hoo-haa," she says. The tug of war over ownership of a blanket created by Tracey Emin between the artist and children at a north London primary school deterred the organisers from giving something so valuable as a prize. But as secondary schools struggle to raise the finds required for specialist status or to make up budget shortfalls, Dame Vivien - who helped raise pound;100 million for the Royal Opera House - has some words of advice. "There is an awful element of scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. You also have to be ruthless, and know who you are going to and why. If you are going to the corporates there has to be something in it for them. They have to justify to their shareholders. Gone are the days when if the chairman liked opera they supported it."
It was money that provided the impetus for Artworks - "the thing that really got us going was finding out that the average spend in schools on art per head per year was a pound. What do you buy with a pound? A pencil?" - but the generosity of the foundation is not boundless, she says. "My dream in life is to start things off, get them secure, give them a little bit of money to live on and throw them out to somebody else. And this is the point we have got to with Artworks. It's assumed that we are going to cough up half a million a year, but we are not."
She has had talks with arts minister Estelle Morris in an attempt to persuade the Government to part-fund future awards, but, whatever happens, she insists the foundation will not abandonArtworks. And she wants to launch a similar prize for the performing arts. Drama, dance and music are, she says, "even worse off".