Gallery a new canvas for local artists

The Gracechurch Centre set to host community arts project celebrating life after lockdown

As part of its ongoing commitment to supporting the local community, The Gracechurch Centre will be collaborating with a local art collective to relaunch an art gallery within the shopping centre for the first time since lockdown, giving a platform to showcase Sutton Coldfield’s budding artists.

Direct Art Action (UK) is a small charity working within the West Midlands which aims to bring back art into the local community by working with retail destinations like The Gracechurch Centre to repurpose vacant units as galleries.

Charity spokesperson, Katie Hammond herself a local artist and proud Suttonian, explains that the charity saw an opportunity to turn the adversity of the pandemic and successive lockdowns into a source of strength and hope for others by bringing art to the wider public.

The gallery has an exciting body of work that will be refreshed to reflect a new topic each month.

Katie is currently working on a new community art piece centred on the theme of ‘hope and is appealing for the support of local people in creating a community art installation. In native American culture, a pale butterfly is a symbol of hope, and throughout September, starting on Saturday 4 September, Katie will be holding free Saturday drop-in sessions where people can learn to fold an origami butterfly, that will eventually create a wall of butterflies, which will act as a wall of hope.

Throughout autumn and winter, the gallery will also feature an array of artwork based on a variety of topics, such as the environment. As part of this, Katie and the team of volunteers that make up Direct Art Action UK, will be looking at initiatives to raise awareness of a whole host of environmental issues.

One such example will be a scheme to collect and repurpose crisp packets as survival blankets for the homeless, minimising the environmental impact of these single use plastic materials while contributing to the safety and wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable people within society.

Angela Henderson, Centre Manager of The Gracechurch Centre, said: “We’re very pleased to be supporting the Direct Art Action UK art gallery as we feel art can be a real force for good within our society. Initiatives like this are a great way to showcase the talent that is on offer within our town and we’d encourage people to get involved and support projects which make a positive impact.

“We see our centre as an important community hub within Sutton Coldfield, and by offering our vacant space to help support local charitable organisations, we can give something back, making Sutton Coldfield an even more special place in which to live.”

Gallery manager and local artist Katie Hammond added: “Just before lockdown one, I completed my first community art project – The Peace Project. I held free drop-in origami sessions, where I got the people of Sutton Coldfield folding 1000 paper cranes to form a Senbazuru.

“Like many, lockdown was hard for me – missing normality, friends and family, and it was during this time that I got the idea for my next community art project. ‘Hope’, will hopefully demonstrate that even in the darkest of times, even though you may not feel like it, you can find hope.”

Below is a list of Direct Art Action’s programme of summer activities from its new home at the Gracechurch Centre:

Friday 20th August – Butterfly sun catcher making drop in session
Friday 27th August – A class on creating Kandinsky rock art
Saturday 28th August – ‘Tropical Day’ watermelon pinwheel making masterclass

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