New free exhibition celebrating art and creativity in lockdown opens in Wakefield city centre
A new exhibition featuring art inspired by the national lockdown has gone on display in Wakefield city centre.
Together & Apart features 17 pieces of artwork, including video, audio and photographic pieces, which explore residents’ experiences living in lockdown and the early months of the pandemic.
As well as paintings and photographs of the city and district through lockdown, the exhibition features a number of more unusual displays.
Among these are Ali Bullivent’s Birdsong Soul Song, an original song inspired by the sounds of birds during lockdown, and Stories in Isolation, a display from Rhubarb Design House which features more than 150 stories from members of the public about their experiences during the lockdown.
Visitors will also be given the chance to enjoy a series of videos from CAPA College students, virtual lessons from Social-I-Sing and a project from local artist Bev Adams, who collected people’s lockdown stories and acted them out using puppets.
Councillor Michael Graham, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, said: “It’s brilliant to see that four of the artists involved in the exhibition worked directly with their local communities to produce this wonderful artwork.
“This really highlights the community spirit and shared experiences across the district over the last 18 months, and celebrates our collective strength and resilience in the face of adversity.
“The unique spirit of the people of Wakefield shines through in every artist’s work.”
As well as providing a chance to celebrate the creative response to the pandemic, it is hoped that the exhibition will encourage people to reflect on the early days of lockdown.
Some projects were the result of a few weeks of inspired work, while others took many months to piece together.
Photography and poetry project Life Lessons was one of those which came together quickly.
It tells the stories of pupils and teachers at three Castleford schools during the first lockdown, with photos of key worker children accompanied by poetry about their experiences.
Though much of the artwork was originally commissioned to form part of an archive, Coun Graham says it quickly became clear that this work was too powerful to be locked away.
He said: “It started out of that immediate need to respond, but the work was so strong, that feeling was so strong.
“By last summer it became clear that we needed to have an exhibition.
“We’re presenting it as an exhibition but I’m trying to see it as a place where people can come and reflect on what happened and how people responded.
“These are micro recordings of what happened to people. You’ve got loss, you’ve got lows, love, grief, celebration.
“This is what happened to people in Wakefield. We didn’t want to shy away from it. There was loss but there was also a sense of coming together.”
Among the original works on display as part of the Together & Apart exhibition are paintings from a number of local artists.
Tony Wade’s A Place for Places features 40 original paintings, each based on a photo taken during his daily exercise walk through the city.
He completed one painting a day during the first lockdown, publishing his final work on June 1, as the first restrictions were lifted.
Among the locations featured as part of the series are Thornes Park’s Cannonball Hill, the view of the city from Pinders Field and even the remains of the former Speedibake factory, which was destroyed in a fire just weeks before the lockdown began.
And Pontefract-based Rachel List, who earned international acclaim last year with a series of murals celebrating the incredible work of the district’s NHS staff, has also created a unique piece of art for the exhibition.
Visitors will be given the chance to write their own thank you notes, paying tribute to those who have supported them through the pandemic.
Rachel will then add a selection of the messages to her specially commissioned mural.
Con Graham said: “Chance to thank people. You can thank anybody you want. You can thank your Nan, or the person who put your bins out, or a professional who helped you.
“The speech bubbles in Rachel’s art will be filled in later in the exhibition. We hope that people will come and be part of the conversation around it, and recognise that it was a highly irregular time for us all.”
Together & Apart has been part funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Cultural Development Fund grant, which is administered by Arts Council England.
The exhibition opens at the former Wakefield Market Hall today, and will be open from 10am to 4pm each day until Sunday, June 20.