See inside Sunderland's stunning new gallery as artist Faye Greenman hosts show in historic Athenaeum Building
A Sunderland artist whose striking work is in demand around the world is among the first to host a show in a transformed historic city centre building.
The Athenaeum Building, on the corner of Fawcett Street and Athenaeum Street, has a long and colourful history in the city.
Opened in 1841 by the Literary and Philosophical Society, it became a cultural hub, playing an important role in the development of culture, design, engineering and photography in the region – and was the very building where one of Sunderland’s most famous sons, Joseph Swan, inventor of the lightbulb, attended lectures.
Now, after being empty for some time, the Victorian building has entered a fitting new creative chapter after being transformed by arts organisation Breeze Creatives into a gallery and studio space for up to 40 artists.
One of the first artists to bring the historic space, including its hidden gem of a gallery, to life is Sunderland artist Faye Greenman, who hosted her biggest show to date at the site.
Faye, 23, from Roker, has had great success since becoming an independent artist, with her distinctive abstract canvases sold to customers in New York, Nashville, Canada, Germany and beyond, via her website.
A recent one-night show in the former lecture hall at the Athenaeum Building was well attended and introduced her work to a new audience.
"It was so nice for people to be able to see my pieces in person, because a lot of my work is online,” she said. “It’s so different to be able to see the pieces in the flesh and to be able to feel the energy of the space.
"I have a studio here and I feel so lucky to have a space like this to show my work, I couldn’t ask for anything better. It really is a hidden gem in Sunderland. It’s mind blowing that we have it here.”
Turning her passion into a career is something the former St Anthony’s pupil is proud to have been able to achieve in her home city.
"People are really spirited in Sunderland and have so much creativity to give. It’s amazing that we have a platform here to showcase our work,” said Faye.
Speaking about her journey into the art world, the Northumbria University fashion graduate said: "I’ve always been interested in art. When I was 14 I used to stay up all night drawing. They were very spiritual pieces and that has translated into the work I do now.
"When I met my boyfriend (Sunderland DJ Sorley) when I was 19, I began creating artwork for his albums and it sparked my love of art again.
"I set up a website, selling three print designs and it’s grown into what it is now with my large canvas pieces sold internationally and I love seeing my work in people’s homes. It’s amazing to be able build a life through my artwork.
“Each canvas is different and I like to make use of all the materials I have, so if I receive a canvas with a hole in it I’ll find a way of turning that into something creative. I find creativity everywhere I can.”
The Athenaeum Fair will be held at the building on Saturday, November 26, with stalls from regional makers, designers, vintage and antique sellers. It takes place from 10am to 5pm and is free entry.
Visit www.fayegreenman.com to find out more about the artist and her work.