AN ANNUAL exhibition showcasing the talent of gifted young local artists is getting wider exposure than usual this year.

Arts Centre Washington’s annual exhibition for young artists, Bright Lights 2021, has opened but the brilliant artwork is available to view at a new venue. This year, due to the pandemic, the artwork in The Galleries Shopping Centre, Washington, as well as online in a 3D recreation of Arts Centre Washington.

Bright Lights is supported by Sunderland Culture and is a platform for young people aged 11 – 19 from across Wearside to show their exciting talent. It is curated by the Celebrate Different Collective, a group of young people aged 13-25 from across Sunderland who, with support from Sunderland Culture, co-produce and run their own cultural events, work with artists and learn new practical skills.

The multi-disciplined Bright Lights exhibition is now in its 26th successful year. 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 from all over the city.

The themes of this year’s exhibition were chosen by the young people who were inspired by the Paint the Town in Sound exhibition which was due to be displayed at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, but has now gone online.  The themes were:

  • Expression and identity;
  • The modern world;
  • The Lockdown;
  • Locality and 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, also 17, is in Grace’s art class at school and her exaggerated self-portrait also features in Bright Lights: “I took a picture of myself and then edited it, changing some of my features so they’re a bit off.”

Both young artists are planning to study art at university and were encouraged to submit their artwork for the exhibition by their school.

Matthew Blyth, Audience Development Officer at Arts Centre Washington, said: “We’d like to thank The Galleries for their help and generosity – they’ve given us a whole shop front to exhibit some of the artwork and explain a bit about Bright Lights. 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.

“We’d also like to thank the Celebrate Different Collective who are a pleasure to work with and did a brilliant job of curating the exhibition and helping to build the online version.”

David McNee, Centre Manager at The Galleries Shopping Centre, said: “We are really proud to be hosting a selection of works by young artists as part of the Bright Lights 2021 exhibition and to work with Arts Centre Washington. Having the work on display in a community setting such as the Galleries will give more people the chance to see the work and especially those who may not have visited a gallery before.

“We know that Covid has impacted people in many different ways, so we are delighted to be able to help these young artists get their work seen and we hope our shoppers enjoy it.”

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

To visit the 3D digital exhibition go to www.artscentrewashington.co.uk

* Paint the Town in Sound explores the relationship between musicians and artists. The exhibition, which you can find at www.sunderlandculture.org.uk, has been developed as part of Sunderland Culture’s prestigious partnership with Arts Council Collection (ACC), the National Partners Programme.

The artworks in the exhibition, chosen by Sunderland band Field Music, are drawn from the Arts Council Collection and feature work from Helen Cammock, Jeremy Deller,  Anthea Hamilton, Mark Leckey and Susan Philipsz. The exhibition also features a roster of artists and musicians born or working in the north east, including Simeon Barclay, Laura Lancaster and Narbi Price.