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Doreen Longstaff - Never Have I Ever - We ARConnected.JPG

Creative Arts and Staying Out meet every Thursday at ARC to express their creative abilities in relaxed, social and therapeutic sessions. The groups are led by artist and community practitioner, Michelle Tripp.

Lockdown stopped the groups from meeting in reality, so Michelle reached out online. The posts were shared by ARC, and community groups around Teesside, with an invitation to all to join in the weekly prompts to create.

Each week the subject matter reflected the mood or situation we were collectively in.

‘A View from our Window’ kicked it off. That was 19 March 2020.

Official lockdown was announced on Monday 23 March, so everyone needed a nice cuppa to calm their nerves. That provided the next theme:  ‘Still Life with Tea’.

‘Spring Flowers’, ‘Paris or Kitchen Sink’, ‘Self Portrait’, and ‘Vibrant Matisse’ boosted our mood, along with ‘Street Party V.E. Day’, and ‘A Grand Day Out’. We were still clapping for the NHS and rainbows were everywhere, so that was used as inspiration.

More followed, including ‘Surrealism’, ‘You Can’t See the Wood for the Trees’, ‘Masks’ (compulsory for wearing in shops and on public transport), ‘Composition’, and ‘Perspective’.

By week 23 of restrictions everyone was still hand washing; keeping their distance; trying to keep healthy; worrying; anticipating what’s ahead; watching the news; checking statistics; keeping in touch online; video calls; talking through windows; weaving about in shops… and all the other stuff that doesn’t always come naturally.

But linked online each week, people posted their efforts, encouraged each other, and enjoyed the process.

Some of that work is in this exhibition. A real, not virtual, display of effort and companionship during this time.

A made, created, solid collection of visual imagery, documenting individual and collective responses from the last five months.

We hope you enjoy looking as much as those involved enjoyed creating.

We ARConnected was ARC’s coronavirus responsive community project; designed to help people stay creative while self-isolating, shielding, or on lockdown.

Each fortnight since UK lockdown began, we invited people to make creative pieces of work of their choice, based on a different creative theme. Participants were able to submit work however, and whenever, they felt safe and able to.

Our wider ARC community shared their creations by email and post: from poetry and stories, to textiles, photography, art, and music videos…

We are proud to showcase these creations in this exhibition, to celebrate how our community came together, and connected creatively throughout the coronavirus pandemic.