Bedford’s creative community is calling on as many residents as possible to release their inner artist and take part in the Great Big Art Exhibition.
The national initiative, supported by world-renowned artists Sir Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor, aims to see art of all kinds displayed in windows up and down the UK to lift our lockdown spirits.
The theme of ‘animals’ has been suggested by Sir Antony, who said: “I think we could now celebrate the diversity and extraordinary range of creative talent there is in Britain.
“People will say, ‘I’m not an artist I don’t draw things’, but I think actually everybody can, once they get going.”
Anyone taking part in Bedford can not only display their work in their windows, on their balconies or in their front gardens, but can also join and share it on the dedicated Facebook page here.
Absolutley no previous artistic experience or qualifications are required to be part of the #GreatBigArtExhibition and all mediums are encouraged, from paint to 3D printing, origami to pottery and photography to Lego.
“While galleries and museums are closed, let our streets be the ultimate open access (and safe) colourful art galleries and performance spaces,” said Bedford-based illustrator, Sarah Harrison.
“Public artwork and making art together as a community has wonderful potential to lift spirits.
“With positive benefits for mental health both through the process of creating, and the process of sharing – connecting us to one another.”
The Bedford Independent is wholeheartedly behind the project and has spoken to some of the Borough’s creative community to ask what art has meant to them throughout lockdown, as well as sharing some crafty inspiration…
Pete Bradshaw: “Since the start of lockdown last March I have been producing a piece of art every day.
“It was stimulated by a friend in Dorset who was doing it with her art group and thought I might like to take part. Each day is a particular topic or medium (for example this week is Winter Olympics in a range of media, one each day).”
We’ve created over 1,000 drawings during lockdown
David Lewry: “I teach art classes at the Rothsay Education Centre and since last April we’ve been running the courses over Zoom.
“There are around 140 people in our Facebook group and it’s become a creative community in its own right.
“I set a daily sketchbook challenge and we’ve now got over 1,000 drawings to show for it. Lots of my students are older people who are self-isolating, so the lessons give them some structure to the day.
“One of my students is 92-years-old. Her daughter has set up the tech for her and she’s very enthusiastic.”
Nourishing for the soul
Philippa McDonald of Creative Days: “Lockdown is a challenging time for us all in many different ways so improving our wellbeing is vital. Our [Creative Days] workshops provide a much needed and welcome creative dimension to the week for children, but what’s been really lovely is seeing other family members joining in too.
“Looking at and being inspired by beautiful things is nourishing for the soul and getting absorbed in a drawing, painting or making activity can be very therapeutic.
“Then there’s the feeling of pride and accomplishment when the work is finished, along with the added joy of being able to share it with others.
Make your own Creative Days milk-carton elephant…
Mindful and creative
Ceramicist Amanda Silk: “Lockdown has allowed me the space to dream and use my imagination to tap into past memories, expressing my thoughts, feelings and relieve the ups and downs of the coronacoaster, through creating.
“I am a potter, ceramicist and sculptor; creating pieces that are both decorative and functional. I have a passion for teaching and adore working with others, running workshops from my pottery garden studio and across educational settings.
“Using clay in particular, gives people the opportunity to experience the tactile quality of this amazing material and allows them to create in a peaceful mindful way.
“But anything can be used to make with, from recycled materials to salt dough.
“There is a simple delight and satisfaction, in watching and listening to others say, “I made that”.”
Tennyson Road artists
Jo Spyropoulos, artist and member of Eagle Gallery: “The act of making fulfils our greatest needs .. a space on the table…paper, pens and colour can lead to marks and images that are entirely your own.
“As an artist, l have found comfort and purpose this way all year. l will join in with some pictures in my window, with other artists in Tennyson Road.”
Sharing joy and creativity
Sara Sayer: “In the first lockdown period I started to draw the fantastic designs people shared on their windows showing their gratitude for those who are serving us so faithfully in the essential services, and at the same time bringing joy with creativity to their neighbours.
“The connection to other Bedfordians through art in this time has been enormously rewarding, uplifting and emotional.
“With many people talking the language of art and displaying it where they live, a fresh chance to inspire and send hope out to others has been found.”
Art provides purpose and positivity
James McGreggor, head of art at BMS: “For me, as well as for many people, art has been a life-saver during the troubled times that we are living in.
“It has provided purpose, diversion, entertainment and a sense of positivity at a time when is easy to feel overwhelmed by circumstances.”
Art is my everything
Jacqui Saunders-Love: “Art is my everything, during lockdown it gave me focus, structure and somewhere else to direct my thoughts. It provided a challenge and a purpose to the day.
“For my husband, he says that music provided a rope ladder out of the madness.”
A splash of colour can be the small smile people need right now
Sarah Harrison: “During lockdown, making art has helped me to stay connected with others. Painting an outdoor ‘Colourful Path of Joy’ with local charity Creating Memories, was great fun and has brought joy and smiles to passers-by on their daily walks.
“When the mood of the pandemic is grey, seeing a splash of colour can be the small smile people need right now.
“As an illustrator, I have started a project called ‘100 days of drawing passers-by’. This daily practice of people watching and sketching, feels calming and is also really interesting.
“I feel like I have connected and socialised with other humans without leaving the house! Which is a great comfort in the face of missing time spent with family and friends – a challenge everyone is dealing with at the moment.
Art is a path out of the madness
Lauren Saunders-Love: “During lockdown art has given me a focus and provided me with a path out of the madness.
“Since lockdown I have started using social media, something I had ignored for a long time, the feedback I received gave me a confidence I didn’t have previously.”
I love losing myself in art
Mique Moriuchi: “I make pictures with paint, paper, scissors and glue, for picture books, greeting cards, posters, portraits and anything else in between.
“Art for me offers so many things; an escape, therapy, self-expression, joy and much more. I love losing myself in it. It helps me make sense of the world. It has the power to do so much, both for the creator and the audience.
“Art brings our family together in moments of peace and chaos. It saw us through lockdown and will hopefully carry on giving us moments of togetherness, inspiration and joy.
“When I asked our 6-year-old what art meant to him, he responded promptly with “Another world” which I thought was lovely. My husband said it’s “a creation that provokes a reaction and or feeling” and the 9-year-old is still thinking.”
Photography gave me a reason to get out of the house
Chiara Mac Call: “Photography gave me a reason to get out of the house and stay active during the Pandemic.
“I think of my photos from this project as a byproduct and record of a beautiful and uplifting exchange between people during a time of challenge.
“It felt like I was being invited into people’s lives, even if I could not be invited into their homes. I found the experience was really moving and I hope the photos capture something of that.”
Creativity has brightened many a dull day during Covid restrictions
Ruth Janes – Emerald Stitcher: “I had already heard of The Great Big Art Exhibition and have put two of my animal pieces in a window so they may be seen from the street.
“I love sew and thus the pictures I have displayed are a mix of quilting and applique.
“During lockdown, creating has been an escape to a happy place. The vibrancy of colour, the feel of crisp cotton, the joy of creating a fun picture, wall hanging or other piece has brightened many a dull day during the long months of Covid restrictions.
“When I’m crafting I’m using my skills to create something that brings pleasure to me and to others, whether it be something functional like face coverings or more decorative such as wall art.”
How to take part
Taking part couldn’t be easier:
- Make a piece of art
- Display it for passers by to see
- Take a photo and upload it to the Great Big Art Exhibition Bedford Facebook page
- Use the hashtag #GreatBigArtExhibition when you share it on social media
- Marvel at the creativity of your friends and neighbours as you take your daily walk
- Become part of Bedford’s biggest creative community yet
Of course, it’s not the first time during the pandemic that art has been centre stage in Bedford.
Who knows, when everything’s blown over, we might even be able to hold an exhibition of all the works created…