Inspirational art exhibition launches a year on from lockdown
A colourful and emotive exhibition begins this week to celebrate the nourishing nature of the South Downs National Park during the pandemic.
Co-inciding with the start of the first lockdown on 23 March last year, the poignant display at Worthing Pier explores people’s varied relationships with the South Downs and the landscape’s ability to help boost both physical and mental health.
The free exhibition, called “The nourishing nature of the South Downs”, has been spearheaded by Creative Waves – a community arts organisation based in Worthing and Adur – which received a grant from the National Park Authority’s Covid Recovery Fund.
Creative Waves invited people to participate in a series of well-being walks during the autumn, exploring the South Downs within 10km of Worthing. Many of the participants took inspiration from their walks and created paintings, drawings, sculptures, photography and poetry for the exhibition.
Artwork was also submitted from the wider Worthing and Adur community following a call-out for people to share their experiences of how the South Downs has helped them during the pandemic.
As well as the outdoor gallery, Creative Waves are also including the artwork in commemorative books for Worthing Museum and West Sussex County Council Library for future generations to be able to see.
Nadia Chalk, a Director at Creative Waves, said: “The first walk was enlightening – we realised that we all just needed to walk, talk and listen. That’s it!
“Being outside and sharing the spectacularly simple things on the South Downs: fabulous views, colours, smells, trees, mud, animals, birdsong, wind, rain, sun, silence, chatter. Connecting to nature and to each other, listening and sharing our stories.
“We found it to be the most moving project that we have ever done, making us take a breath and think about how we help each other to recover from the disruption.”
Vanessa Breen, also a Director at Creative Waves, added: “It’s been an extremely challenging time for everyone and this project has been so rewarding on many levels, enabling us to widen our outreach, participation and create more opportunities for people to experience the South Downs through the walks and now the exhibition on Worthing Pier. We are very grateful to the South Downs National Park Authority for awarding us funding,”
The exhibition will be in place at Worthing Pier throughout the spring and summer.
One of the participants said: “Public art and outdoor exhibitions will definitely be the safest, most accessible and most prominent way for artists to show their work for quite some time to come. I’m thrilled to bits to be included in a big real-life art show, and the legacy book too!”
Kate Drake, Health and Wellbeing Officer for the National Park, said: “The artwork is amazing and I was overwhelmed by the sheer variety of work – showing that everyone has a different interpretation of the South Downs.
“I know the South Downs has been a real tonic for me during the pandemic and has for so many others too. I think it’s just lovely leaving all the ‘luggage’ behind and being in such an open and tranquil space where you can reset your brain and feel calmer. It’s certainly been a good stress reliever and this is especially relevant as we have Stress Awareness Month coming up in April.”
For more information about the work of Creative Waves see www.creativewaves.co.uk
For advice on visiting the National Park and getting the most out of your visit see www.southdowns.gov.uk/enjoying-happy-times-and-helping-nature-to-happily-flourish/