Shropshire artist Grace Currie has transformed the window of one of Shrewsbury’s vacant shops into a ‘street gallery’ as part of a national campaign that aims to stage the biggest exhibition ever in the UK.
At a time when museums and art galleries are shut, The Great Big Art Exhibition 2021 invites people to make their own artwork at home and display it in their front window, garden or outdoor space.
Now Grace is urging artists – from professionals to complete beginners – to take part.
The national exhibition was launched last month by The Angel of the North sculptor, Sir Antony Gormley, as a 100-day celebration of the creativity in each and every one of us. It runs until May 7 with a different theme every fortnight.
For the current theme, Portraits, Grace has hung portraits of her family and friends in lockdown in the window of the vacant shop beneath the Market Hall building in Shoplatch.
Grace found her voice in art after a devastating road accident 11 years ago, almost robbed her of her life, aged 17, and left her with severe brain injury.
She wasn’t even expected to make it to hospital. Twelve months later, after a series of operations and therapy, she left hospital with a prognosis that she would need 24-hour care for the rest of her life.
But Grace defied all the odds. She learned to walk again, returned to college, went on to university to study Fine Art, graduated last year with a first class degree and is now working as a professional artist. She has so far exhibited in the West Midlands and London.
“The Great Big Art Exhibition is for people in the street, not academics. It’s art for everybody,” said Grace, who lives in Baschurch.
“These are all pictures of my friends and family. I can’t meet my friends any more, but I see them on Zoom and video calls. These pictures are impressions from memory of relationships mediated by computers.
“Before my accident I was studying psychology. I did GCSE Art, but it was something on the side. What has changed is art is now at the centre of my life.
“Art is important to me because, since the accident, I find it difficult to read and write. Art helps me express myself.”
The Market Hall’s landlord, Shropshire Council, was thrilled to lend the empty shop as Grace’s temporary gallery space. She will continue to display work in the window for the foreseeable future, until the shop is let to a new tenant.
“We thought the exhibition was a fantastic idea and were only too happy to help,” said Market Hall Facilities Manager Kate Gittins.
“Grace’s exhibition has brought a wonderful splash of colour to the street and given people walking by something cheerful to look at and talk about.”
The aim of The Great Big Art Exhibition is to create a countrywide show of imagination and optimism, inspired by the rainbow images that people made during the first lockdown celebrating the NHS and key workers.