Rachel List's Together & Apart Mural. Photo Credit - Ant Robling, Robling Photography

Hearts for the Arts Shortlist 2022 – Together & Apart

Wakefield Council's Together & Apart has been shortlisted for Best Arts Project in the 2022 Hearts for the Arts Awards

Together & Apart was the title of an exhibition of work by local artists and art organisations who had all received emergency support from Wakefield during the first lockdown in 2020. The council encouraged the artists to explore their creative responses to the impact of the unprecedented situation on the lives of the local community in Wakefield.

Initially the emergency grants for the 17 local creatives – 2Sure Threads, Ali Bullivent, Bev Adams, CAPA College, CoActive Arts, Eastmoor Community Project, foh-toh, Merrie Collective, One to One Development Trust, Phoetry, Rachel List, Rhubarb Design House, Seanna Doonan, Social-i-Sing, Spectrum People, Stride Theatre and Tony Wade – saw creativity being delivered virtually with online sessions, and the artists and groups chronicling the experience of the pandemic remotely. As the work moved forward, however, and the pandemic continued, the council recognised the importance of the diverse work being produced and started to develop the idea for a public exhibition to heighten engagement.

The artists and organisations engaged with nearly 300 hundred people in the local community in their creative processes, for example:

  • 2Sure Threads ran slow stitching craft sessions for key workers to stitch reflective ‘Letters of Lockdown’ to help with their wellbeing
  • Bev Adams and One to One Development Trust interviewed people about their experiences of lockdown, including experiences of living with sight loss during the pandemic
  • CoActive Arts, Eastmoor Community Project, Social-i-Sing, and Stride Theatre turned their drama and singing sessions to online sessions and support groups. The sessions are for: young people with learning disabilities, people with life limiting lung conditions, and children in deprived areas.
  • Spectrum People ran 250 hours 121 covid-secure art therapy with adults in need
  • Phoetry went into local schools in Castleford and documented each child with a portrait, and a published reflective poem on their experience of lockdown as a young child.
  • Rhubarb Design House collected 150 ‘Stories of Isolation’ which were then installed in a large-scale vinyl installation that provided our exhibition with a reflective space for visitors
  • Rachel List became Pontefract’s Banksy, creating 12 public murals across the town. Rachel received international recognition from the press. During the exhibition visitors contributed to Rachel’s live mural with their personal reflections

Wakefield has never previously provided emergency grants to the creative sector. The critical investment of £53,000 into the district’s creative sector was a step-change for the Council and many of the creatives were new to the Council. The exhibition played a vital role in commemorating difficult losses, remembering and celebrating resilience, and offering a hopeful vision for a connected and caring community going forward.

As the first event held by the Council after the 2021 lockdown, the exhibition was the start of Wakefield Council’s commitment to community engagement and creativity in Wakefield’s ambition to “Build Back Better.”

What the judges said:

“This project is so heartwarming! Showcasing work made in a really difficult time but in a positive way is a simple but devastatingly effective idea, and the emergency grants for creative organisations/individuals should be rewarded and highlighted to other LAs as an important way to support us all in 2022.”

 “A project borne out of the pandemic which forged new relationships between local creatives and the council, which is always something to be celebrated. A large number of people were involved, adding to a sense of community cohesion following a very isolating time. I’d like to thank Wakefield Council for offering emergency grants to creatives at an extremely financially challenging time”