Local resident curates new exhibition of community’s pandemic experiences
A new exhibition has opened in North Shields featuring artworks created by the local community throughout the pandemic.
Called Time on My Hands, the exhibition was curated by professional artist Gail Curry, 57, resident of Anchor Hanover’s Bewicke Lodge housing scheme in Wallsend. Works of 35 artists present an expansive array of lockdown stories and creations using 'the universal language of art'. Gail’s own paintings, made during the third national lockdown, are included in the exhibition.
As someone who speaks using a communication aid, Gail found communicating especially difficult due to social distancing and technological limitations, leading her to feel very isolated during the national lockdowns. To reflect on her experience, she channelled her creativity and made a series of clocks as she found time was a central element of her lockdown experience. She said:
Living alone and locked down without speech I could at times hear the sound of the allegedly silent clock. I asked myself questions such as, how long the lockdown would last? How long before everyone is vaccinated and protected? I had all these questions and they all led me back to time.
Gail wanted to learn about how other people in the community were experiencing lockdown. She put up posters and turned to social media, the local press and a network of local organisations to spread the word and ask people to share their creative reflections. To her delight, the response was excellent with a diverse array of over 90 people submitting their work. She said:
My painting is mostly about what I feel rather than what I see and since I lost my speech, it’s provided me with a really versatile form of communication.
I was curious to know how others were experiencing lockdown but obviously conversations were not easily possible for me. I decided to invite the community to enter their creative lockdown reflections to be exhibited alongside my own. It’s been a fascinating process with lovely work and stories.
Gail took extra care to make sure the exhibition showed a diverse set of experiences. She selected a range of artwork from men and women from ages five to 92 as well as an array of artistic mediums from photography, to crochet, to mixed media.
Throughout the pandemic, Anchor Hanover has encouraged residents to combat loneliness by providing resources and support such as their BeSupportive telephone support service and GetConnected scheme.
Anchor Hanover’s Customer Engagement and Insight Manager Anna Clewlow said:
It’s wonderful to see how Gail has used her creativity to engage with the community. It’s so important to work on combatting loneliness and during the pandemic Anchor Hanover has provided ways for residents to engage with each other such as our GetConnected scheme which lends residents tablets and support with technology training.
Gail’s initiative is admirable and it’s brilliant that she has also provided something new to the community in the process.
Gail hopes that the exhibition will offer new perspectives on lockdown experiences and encourage people to turn to art for expression. She added:
I’d like to think that Time on My Hands gives insight into how different people experienced lockdown and the creative ways people channelled their time to help manage such an unfamiliar and difficult period. I also hope the exhibition inspires and helps people to rediscover their own creativity.
Time on My Hands is open to view until 24 August at Bank Studios, Beacon Centre, North Shields from 10am to 4PM Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.