Gateshead residents have become the latest artists exhibited at the Shipley Art Gallery in a project keeping people connected through creativity.

The new street-side artwork features bold prints and positive messages from the 12-strong group run by creative ageing charity Equal Arts.

When the Carers’ Cultural Adventures group was forced to stop face-to-face sessions during the pandemic, Equal Arts supported them to reconnect with postal packs and weekly online workshops with illustrator Bethan Laker.

With restrictions due to ease, the charity wanted to explore how people were feeling about being able to venture back to community venues and be back together after so long apart.

The results of the poster art project are emblazoned outside of the Gateshead venue with messages such as ‘open door, eyes, arms, mind, heart’ capturing the mood of the dementia-friendly group.

Claudine Zardi who lives in the town has taken part in various online workshops run by the Newcastle-based charity over the past year. She said: “Working together towards the same aim has been motivating and for me it has been something to look forward to and an enjoyable moment when days, because of the restrictions due to the pandemic, have tended to be a bit dull. Seeing familiar faces on the screen, waving to them, has been heart-warming.

“This project has been particularly meaningful as it had a specific purpose, related to the long-awaited re-opening of the Shipley Art Gallery. We all love the Shipley and many of us have been able to try various arts and craft activities and explore new skills there over the years.”

Following government guidelines, the group is returning to the venue every Thursday from 1pm – 3pm working with different North East artists to explore their imaginations and have a go at new artforms.

Bethan added: “Supported by Equal Arts, we’ve been posting out materials, having online workshops and chatting on the phone to create these posters, welcoming everyone back inside.

“It’s been an anxious time, so it was really good to chat to the group about the positive impact the Shipley has had on their wellbeing and what an important and enriching part of the community it is.”

Anne Fountain, Learning Officer at the Shipley Art Gallery, said: “We are delighted to be able to display the Carers’ Cultural Adventures street-side artwork as part of our reopening. We have welcomed the group, supported by Equal Arts, to the Shipley for a number of years and have missed having them in the Gallery over lockdown. It is great that they have been able to meet online and continue their arts practice. The group work alongside artists to create their own work and learn new skills and we’ve looked forward to welcoming them back to the Shipley.”

If you’d like to get creative with Equal Arts and join the Carers’ Cultural Adventures Thursday group or the Creative Friends group on a Wednesday morning at the Shipley Art Gallery, please email information@equalarts.org.uk or call 0191 261 1619.