Young artists' work on display in shopping centre where Bright Lights shine

An annual exhibition in its 26th year is showcasing the talents of gifted young local artists in a very different venue giving it wider exposure than usual.

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 6:09 pm

Arts Centre Washington’s annual exhibition for young artists, Bright Lights 2021, has opened. But due to the pandemic the work is being displayed in the Galleries Shopping Centre, Washington, as well as online in a 3D recreation of Arts Centre Washington.

Bright Lights, a multi-disciplined exhibition supported by Sunderland Culture, is a platform for young people aged 11-19 from across Wearside to show their talent.

It is curated by the Celebrate Different Collective, a group of young people aged 13-25 from across the city who, with support from Sunderland Culture, co-produce and run their own cultural events, work with artists and learn new practical skills.

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From left to right, Beth Gillespie, curator Hannah Smiles, Charlotte Thompson, curator Emily Findlay and Grace Fryer.
From left to right, Beth Gillespie, curator Hannah Smiles, Charlotte Thompson, curator Emily Findlay and Grace Fryer.

The arts centre received more than 70 entries, spanning textile art, mixed media sculpture, digital photography, painting and video. Entries came from schools, youth groups and individuals.

The five themes chosen for 2021 were: expression & identity, the modern world, lockdown, locality & heritage, freedom and social change.

Grace Fryer, 17, from St Anthony’s Girls’ Catholic Academy, is one of the artists whose work is featured in the exhibition.

She said: “I’m proud my painting has been chosen for this year’s Bright Lights. The painting is of my best friend. I wanted to capture her when and where she was relaxed and comfortable so I painted her in my room.”

Beth Gillespie with a pop-up of her artwork.

Grace’s classmate, Beth Gillespie, 17, has an “exaggerated self-portrait” in Bright Lights. Beth said: “I took a picture of myself and then edited it, changing some of my features so they’re a bit off.”

Both young artists plan to study art at university and were encouraged to submit their artwork for the exhibition by St Anthony’s.

Matthew Blyth, audience development officer at Arts Centre Washington, said: “The exhibition is always an important part of our calendar and it’s great that this year a wider audience can see it through the Galleries’ help and through the online exhibition.

As well as the shop front, several artists work has also been selected to appear on pop-ups positioned around the Galleries.

To visit the 3D digital exhibition visit

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