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Art and Creativity Week 2021

Originally published 15/06/2021

This week is all about celebrating art and creativity and these themes are incredibly important as so often they give people a voice and a means of empowerment. It is a way of raising issues, inspiring change and presenting someone’s viewpoint. The need for escapism and different ways to communicate also reached new heights for many people this year with the ongoing difficulties that we all faced with COVID-19.

There have been numerous examples of all the above during the Community Catalysts project in Rotherham. A huge part of what Community Catalysts do is to shout about the incredible people and community enterprises that we work with. Therefore, when this year’s theme was announced, it was the perfect opportunity to highlight ArtWorks who we have been supporting for 4 years.

ArtWorks artists have a hugely successful history of creative and community projects including works to celebrate women’s suffrage, murals across South Yorkshire, art work for two of Sheffield’s professional football clubs and creating the official art work for the Special Olympics held in Sheffield in 2017.

During the last year, ArtWorks launched ‘ArtWorks Together’: an international art competition for artists with a learning disability and artists with autism, created in and hosted from Rotherham.

“We encourage ambition and talent to freely thrive through creative projects, collaboration and community activities. Our programmes and activities are designed to be a catalyst that helps our artists reach their goals and fulfil their potential.”

ArtWorks Mission

ArtWorks artists were central to every aspect of the ‘ArtWorks Together’ competition including the judging of over 1000 entries from all the over the world including across the UK, Europe, Indonesia, India, USA and Australia.

ArtWorks artists narrowed the applications down to 34 before working with 6 professional artists to select the judges awards and the final 3 winners. The winners won financial prizes and all of the shortlisted entries have formed an online virtual exhibition, with the physical display being held at Wentworth Woodhouse in South Yorkshire. ArtWorks recognised the importance of every entry and so each of the 1000+ pieces will also be exhibited on a screen at Wentworth.

The ‘ArtWorks Together’ – 3 winning entries

The incredible 3 winning entries demonstrate why art and creativity are so important and how competitions like this play a crucial role in creating a format to share these amazing works and stories. Find out more about the stories behind each piece.

1st Place – Emily Uttley – Sleeping boy

Sleeping boy art

This image depicts a boy / young man, lying on his bed alone and in an awkward position, suffering from a wave of depression. It shows his complete surrender to battling it, yet the peacefulness of his pain.

After having a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome at a young age, I have always struggled to relate to other people, and have consequently suffered from feelings of isolation, anxiety and sometimes depression. I therefore use my imaginary subjects as a reflection of my own most inner feelings and private moments. – extract from artist’s text

2nd Place – 15 Days of Clay – The Gathering

15 days of clay piece of art

15 Days of Clay is a group of artists bonded by kinship, with a sense of creativity at its heart. Our purpose has always been to champion ability over any perceived disability. There is beauty in difference if you remove judgment. Our clay community has created its own collective purpose, generated genuine friendships and has nurtured an environment that has empowered countless individuals.

The work needed to create a sense of presence, stature and an interaction. There needed to be uniformity with the overall form, but also individuality expressed through the choices of each artist. – extract from artist’s text

3rd Place – Thomas Miles – Masking: Conflict

'Masking: conflict' piece of art

I find that we must reflect on the good and the bad that comes with autism. My experiences vary: I can be so happy and joyous that I will stim (reactions/ movements that autistic people may do when there’s a sensory overload or an overwhelming sense of joy or stress). But then I can also feel very low and drained, this can be due to masking for a lengthy period of time.

This photo is a portrayal of the conflict that comes with masking. How it feels to be in the centre of masking, particularly for a long period of time. You feel yourself doing whatever you can to successfully mask, to hide any autistic traits that people might judge. – extract from artist’s text

Through their work, the artists of ArtWorks have had such a positive impact across South Yorkshire in terms of showcasing people’s talents and bringing about a needed change in some people’s perceptions. It has been so great to see that their ethos and work is now having a positive influence on an international level. This international competition can support the art, creativity and stories of many more artists from all over the world and it’s going to be amazing to see how it grows following its fantastic inauguration year.

By Harry Clarkson – Rotherham Community Catalyst