A new portrait exhibition recognising people’s selfless acts of kindness during the global pandemic has opened at Preston Park Museum this summer.
Earlier this year Preston Park Museum & Grounds asked the people of Tees Valley to nominate their local Lockdown Legend to be in with a chance of having their portrait created and displayed in an art exhibition, Extraordinary People.
More than 100 entries poured in from people who wanted to nominate inspirational people who deserved recognition during the pandemic.
Among them was 9-year-old Daisy, who organised an appeal to feed vulnerable families, raising over £1,000 in just two days and providing over 187 families with lunch for a week.
When the pandemic started, Terri Smith was studying and training as a student nurse. Following a Government appeal, she spent the last four months of her degree course working on the COVID-19 ward at James Cook University Hospital. Terri graduated with a First Class Honours degree has continued to work in ICU at the hospital.
Another nominee was Mark Plumb. Mark helped lift the spirits of families during lockdown by live streaming his DJ sets for free. As well as providing the community with a much-needed mood booster, he has also raised thousands of pounds for NHS Charities and Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind.
The winner was selected by a judging panel that was made up of 30 members of the community, including Preston Park Museum volunteers and staff, a member of Bright Minds Big Futures and Jane Bizimana, a local artist and exhibition co-curator.
The overall winner was Sahida Ditta, who worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to provide food hampers to some of the most vulnerable Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic BAME families on Teesside, ensuring they didn’t go hungry.
An NHS worker, Sahida spotted the need for tailored food hampers that met the dietary requirements of BAME families. Supported by local charities, she launched Amal Project Teesside and has worked throughout the pandemic to provide food to some of the Teesside community’s most vulnerable families.
Sahida chose to work with British Asian artist Daya Bhatti to create a portrait which tells her story. Daya is inspired by traditional South Asian culture and uses contemporary approaches to create portraits, patterns and animations that explore cultural heritage and identity.
The UK artist’s contemporary visual approach to portraiture helped convey Sahida’s story, painting on to a jute ‘bag for life’ to represent the food filled Bags of Life which Sahida and Amal Project delivered to families during lockdown.
Sahida Ditta, from Amal Project Teesside, said: “When I saw Daya’s work, there was a connection and feeling of personal reflection.
“I was drawn to the intricacy and link to South Asian heritage and culture. I was nervous about the process but Daya was brilliant to work with.
“She captured elements that I felt were important with her unique magic touch. Working remotely was challenging but Daya’s passion to create a truly meaningful concept ensured obstacles were overcome.”
PC Neil Harrison, of Cleveland Police, nominated Sahida. He said: “Sahida is truly an amazing person and deserves to be recognised by the wider community for her gift of hope to vulnerable families so that no child or family go hungry.”
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, Leisure and Culture, Councillor Jim Beall, said: “This is an extraordinary exhibition featuring some real unsung heroes who have done some amazing things to help our community throughout the pandemic.
“We’re told by the judges that it was a very tough decision to choose the winners. I’d like to congratulate and thank Sahida, Daisy, Terri and Mark and all the other Lockdown Legends for their invaluable work and contribution to our communities during one of the most difficult times in our history.”
Sahida’s portrait will be on display in a new exhibition Extraordinary People at Preston Park Museum until 3 October alongside the pictures and stories of some of the other Lockdown Legend nominees.
The Extraordinary People portrait exhibition has been co-curated with artists and local community groups. It explores the traditional medium of portraiture as well as celebrating the people who we believe to be extraordinary and deserving of a place in history.