Sheffield Park Academy Collaborate with the Millennium Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery
/ Categories: News
Who are the people that represent Sheffield? This summer, a new exhibition at the Millennium Gallery created in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery celebrates the pioneers, performers, athletes and artists synonymous with our city.
Opening on Thursday 30 June, Creative Connections Sheffield brings together over 30 works from the National Portrait Gallery and the city’s own collection, including portraits of Alex Turner, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Sean Bean, Self Esteem, Otis Mensah, Helen Sharman, Mary, Queen of Scots and more. The works go on display alongside a brand-new, large-scale commission by Sheffield artist Conor Rogers and young people from Sheffield Park Academy.
Creative Connections is a national participation project which sees the National Portrait Gallery showcase highlights from its collection in partnership with galleries, artists and young people to explore ideas of place, community and the people who inspire us. Works on display in Sheffield include three contemporary portraits of inspirational city figures, which join the National Portrait Gallery’s extensive Collection as part of the project:
- Self Esteem (Rebecca Lucy Taylor), photograph by Karina Lax, 2019: Rebecca Lucy Taylor was born in Rotherham and was previously a member of Sheffield folk duo Slow Club. Taylor has gone on to find widespread acclaim performing as Self Esteem – in 2021she won the BBC Music Introducing Artist of the Year and her album, Prioritise Pleasure, was named as the best of the year by The Guardian, The Sunday Times and Gigwise.
- Magid Magid, photograph by Chris Saunders, 2018: Magid Magid is a Somali-British activist and politician. Magid came to Sheffield in 1994 as a child refugee, grew up in Burngreave and served as the Lord Mayor of Sheffield from 2018 to 2019. He was both the first Somali-born councillor and the first Green Party councillor to hold the role, as well as the youngest person to ever take up the position.
- Otis Mensah, photograph by Raluca de Soleil, 2020: Otis Mensah is a writer, hip-hop and spoken word artist whose work challenges dominant models of masculinity. Appointed Poet Laureate of Sheffield in 2018, Mensah has performed at Glastonbury, We Out Here and Shambala music festivals.
Visitors will discover a range of historic and contemporary portraits of prominent people who hail from or have links with the city, including:
- Edward Carpenter, bronze by Dorothea Clement, date unknown: Edward Carpenter was an influential Victorian writer, poet and activist who pioneered gay rights, women’s rights and environmentalism. Carpenter lived at Millthorpe, on the edge of the Peak District National Park, with his partner George Merrill, a working-class man from Sheffield.
- Jessica Ennis-Hill, photograph by Kate Peters, 2012: Jessica Ennis-Hill is one of Britain’s most successful track and field athletes. Born and raised in Sheffield, she was nicknamed ‘Sheffield’s Golden Girl’ after winning the heptathlon gold medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
- Alex Turner, photograph by Julian Broad, 2013: Alex Turner is a musician, singer, songwriter and record producer, best known as the lead singer and main songwriter of Arctic Monkeys. Born in Sheffield, he grew up in High Green and formed the band, which has gone on to huge internationally success, with his friends while they were at school.
The exhibition also highlights some surprising and lesser-known connections to Sheffield, including those of US aviator Amy Johnson, founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale, and award-winning author A.S. Byatt.
The centrepiece of the exhibition sees students from Sheffield Park Academy work with artist Conor Rogers to create brand new artwork exploring ideas of place, community and inspiration. The installation, based around a decommissioned bus shelter, includes original artwork created by Conor and the young people inspired by the themes of the exhibition.
Conor Rogers said:
"It has been an honour to witness the impact this project has played on these students. Hailing from the same communities and even attending the same school as the students taking part, I have a deep connection to what we are trying to achieve from this project. Together, we have collectively challenged our own personal limitations, as well as the systematic limitations which prevent certain areas in society from having the opportunities they deserve. Though our approach wasn't conventional and came with risk and responsibility, we’ve represented ourselves and the people of Sheffield in what I believe to be a truly authentic collection of socially-engaged portraiture."
In addition to their own creative work, the young people have also been involved in the development of the wider exhibition, with their contributions featured on many of the information labels that accompany the works.
Rosemary Plant, teacher at Sheffield Park Academy said:
“This project has provided a great opportunity for our students to express their creativity. They have developed confidence to communicate and talk more openly about their work and have really enjoyed working with Conor and the team at Sheffield Museums. We are really proud of what they have achieved and can’t wait to see the exhibition on display at the Millennium Gallery.”
The exhibition and its associated event programme will also invite visitors and attendees to reflect on the people who they feel should by recognised as inspirational Sheffield figures.
Graham Moore, Schools & Young People Coordinator, Sheffield Museums, said:
‘Sheffield’s story is full of successful, influential and inspirational figures. It’s been fantastic to work with the National Portrait Gallery, Conor and the young people from Sheffield Park Academy to reflect on their achievements and show so many of these wonderful works here in the city.’
Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London said:
“We are delighted to be partnering with Sheffield Museums on Creative Connections as part of our transformational Inspiring People project. By working in collaboration with organisations across the UK we hope to make our portraits accessible to many more people, enabling them to seek out their stories within our Collection”