Artists show off their talents on Sunderland city centre benches

The artistic skills of around 95 Wearsiders are on display in Sunderland city centre as part of a new initiative.

Thursday, 26th August 2021, 5:00 am

Amateur artists from aged three upwards answered the call for creative-minded volunteers to decorate specially commissioned art benches. The aim is to “encourage people to take time out of their day to relax and reconnect with others.”

The first four benches have been installed, two at Keel Square and two at the junction of Low Row and High Street West. Eight more will follow in the coming weeks.

The project is run by Sunderland BID in with The Art Room Sunderland, which has been holding free workshops.

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Talented people of all ages have contributed to the city centre's "art benches".

The Art Room team pre-drew designs, chosen from dozens submitted by the public, onto 24 panels, so groups of all skill sets could paint them. Artist Kerry Cook and her assistant Emily Doughty attended the workshops to advise.

Schools and community groups have also been involved and Kerry estimates that when 12 benches are completed, around 350 people will have taken part. The first names of all the artists will be painted on to a bench to recognise their efforts.

Kerry said: “We have had grandparents, parents, cousins, friends and neighbours, families who do classes with me at The Art Room and even people who have just come in as they were passing. It’s been a wonderful mix.”

Councillor Linda Williams, cabinet member for Vibrant City at Sunderland City Council, said: “As well as adding some colour to our streets these benches showcase the creativity of Sunderland’s residents, while providing a wonderful way for people connect with each other while they are out and about in the city.”

The first four "art benches" are at Keel Square and at the junction between Low Row and High Street West, with a further eight set to follow in the coming weeks.

Sharon Appleby, chief executive at Sunderland BID, hopes the benches will be a talking point with residents, shoppers and visitors and also encourage people to sit, linger and engage with each other.

She said: “We all need a little time out now and again just to take stock and watch the world go by and that’s where these benches come in.

“They’ve been created by the community for the community and are a wonderful, colourful and practical addition to the city centre.”

Painting workshops can be booked for a bubble of four people at either 10am, 11am or 1pm and free tickets can be booked via www.ticketsource.co.uk/theartroomsunderland.

Artist Matilda Cook looks positively angelic.

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