A Leeds-based charity, which has spent the last 10 months engaging its local communities in a range of creative activities, has created a stunning online virtual gallery to celebrate the resulting work.

The online gallery, called Unlocked – Inspiration from Isolation, has been co-curated by award-winning arts and social change charity Space2 and Wakefield-based arts organisation One to One Development Trust. It features artwork, poetry, textiles, dance and film created in response to Covid 19 – all in a virtual space which visitors can explore like any ordinary gallery.

Space2 project manager, and exhibition curator, Jelena Zindovic said: “This exhibition is the culmination of nearly a year of working with isolated Leeds’ communities during the pandemic, providing weekly packs to stimulate their creativity.

“We wanted to create something which is a reflection of lockdown. Everyone has had such a difficult time and it’s good to see that art has been so important in terms of keeping people engaged and connected.”

“As people can’t visit actual galleries at the moment, we commissioned One to One Development Trust to respond to the artwork and create a virtual space where we could house all the work. The virtual gallery is stunning to look at and quite groundbreaking in its approach. It feels as if you are walking through an actual arts space.”

The virtual gallery has been created by One to One’s Digital Director Andy Campbell who, with the One to One team, has been developing innovative online spaces, galleries and museums as part of the organisation’s response to Covid-19.

Judi Alston, CEO/creative dDirector of One to One Development Trust, said:
“We took inspiration from the artwork people had made to create a purpose built digital space with strong clean design, easy usability and an environmental focus. We wanted to create a bright, accessible and happy space for visitors.”

“Unlike a physical gallery dictated by space, the virtual gallery has limitless potential for expansion through building new rooms, floors and outside areas.”

As soon as lockdown was announced in March 2020 Space2 decided to keep working with its local communities delivering a range of services to struggling families throughout the pandemic. It successfully applied for Community Fund Covid-19 Response emergency funding to provide volunteer support, food parcels and creative activities.

The virtual gallery, which opens to the public on Friday 29th January, consists of three ‘rooms’ each of which reflects a different aspect of the pandemic. The first room Greetings from the Unknown includes images from a postcard project which encouraged people to create their own designs and included a specially designed instruction sheet made by Leeds-based artist Tony Stephenson. Recipients were invited to design a postcard which reflected positivity, creativity and community coherence during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Each room in the gallery has its own distinctive mood. Sounds of Lockdown is the result of a collaboration between the members of the community and local artists Carine Brosse, Kevin Hickson and Michelle Scally Clarke. Each artist designed a booklet to go into Space2’s creative wellbeing packs. The packs included ideas for writing poetry, led by Michelle Scally Clarke, a textiles project led by Carine Brosse and a sound installation, ‘Sounds of lockdown’, led by Kevin Hickson. The resulting work was co-created by the artists and members of the community and Space2’s poetry groups Clear Out Your Closet and Care Collective.

The third room, Colour Our City Green, focuses on working with the people of East Leeds to co-produce a show and song of their thoughts and ideas addressing the climate crisis. Originally this performance was to take place at Leeds Playhouse in July 2020 but, because of lockdown, Space2 staff had to rethink how to share the work. The room includes environmental poetry inspired by writer Michelle Scally Clarke and written with the community; a soundscape by Finish artist Dilliana Stoyanova; a film by a young disabled artist called Ria; a song by musician Boff Whalley, performed by community members, the Space2 children’s choir and Commoners Choir; and a film of Phoenix Youth Academy’s dance piece about global warming, with music by East Leeds FM’s Jazz Collective.

“The singing brought lots of different groups together,” said Jelena.

“They really looked forward to seeing each other online and creating something which allowed their voices to be heard.”

The Unlocked virtual gallery is funded by Leeds Inspired and Arts Council England. To view the gallery from Friday 29th January 2020 go to: https://space2.org.uk/unlocked