A huge cardboard sculpture is helping to bring new life to an important city building.
Artist Dylan Shields’ sculpture, The Fall of the Rebel Angels, is currently on show at The Athenaeum Building, formerly known as the Pilgrim Pub, in Fawcett Street.
The building has an important part to play in Sunderland’s heritage, as it was in an upstairs room in The Athenaeum that Sir Joseph Swan attended lectures on the new science of photography.
Swan, a Sunderland-born physicist and chemist, went on to invent the incandescent lightbulb.
Dylan’s exhibition, which also includes paintings, is the first of three events to help bring the building back to life and is part of an innovative arts project held in the city.
The Sunderland 10x10 project paired 10 Wearside businesses with 10 regional artists with the aim of fostering new relations, connections and creativity.
The artists then spent month-long residencies at their respective businesses, working together to develop an agreed project.
The partnerships then presented to a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style panel which selected two winners, each of whom won paid residencies worth £7,500 each.
The winning collaborations were artist and curator Dominic Smith and Siglion; and Breeze Creatives and Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID).
The idea behind the BID/Breeze partnership was to use the opportunity to bring new life to an empty city centre building, and the building chosen was The Athenaeum Building.
Together, they have worked to open up the building and devise three exciting commissioned public events that will respond to the Athenaeum’s unique space and its significant history.
Zoe Anderson, from Breeze, said: “Dylan’s work is amazing, it’s like being able to walk into and around a painting.
“They’re not literal translations, but his work is inspired by classical religious paintings.”
Dylan’s exhibition is the first of the three events.
The next event will be on Thursday when the important contribution Swan made to photography will be explored during an evening hosted by Breeze and the North East Photography Network (NEPN) – again in the space where Swan attended lectures.
Carol McKay, programme director, NEPN, said “Most people know Joseph Swan as the inventor of the incandescent light bulb. But he was also a photography entrepreneur and businessman, with connections far and wide.
“The exhibition will be our version of ‘steampunk’ photography: 19th century techniques and inventions with a contemporary twist.”
The final event of the Breeze/BID project will be held on November 24, and will combine spoken word, dancers and new technology in a performance called Babble.
Zoe explained: “We worked with Charlie Dearnley and Adam Goodwin on a performance of Babble at the Baltic – it’s a piece that explores the boundaries of text and sound and is something really different.”
Helen Connify, co-ordinator for Sunderland Cultural Partnership and project lead for Sunderland 10 x 10 project said: “We loved the idea of such an important building being revitalized and Dylan’s stunning work is a great way to start the three events. 10 x10 captured the imaginations of both artists and businesses and other areas are already looking to replicate the project.”
Fall of the Rebel Angels will be available to view at The Athenaeum from noon until 5pm on Sunday.