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Connecting in a World of Social Distancing

The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us how crucial the NHS is to keep our loved ones healthy and safe and to care for them in times of crisis. Our exhibition aims to support this work while bringing some colour and light to a challenging time. 50% of sales proceeds from the Northern Lights exhibition will be donated to NHS Charities Together to support the health and emotional wellbeing of those at the frontline of the NHS, so they can deliver the best care possible to coronavirus patients. Funds will also support the longer term mental health care and rehabilitation of NHS staff, volunteers, patients and carers after the pandemic is over.

Like good quality health care, art is essential in everyday life, bringing enjoyment, thought-provoking debate, and a sense of belonging. We hope this project will create connection during a time when our ability to interact physically and socially is limited. Last year, our team at The Wall North Contemporary organised the Young Curator for Young Collectors exhibition. It was great fun thanks to everyone who supported the project and came along. We so appreciated those who came to view the art, talk about the exhibition and purchase work. While we are not currently able to host an opening or share time with each other in front of inspiring art, we would like to embrace this sense of connection through virtual means.

The prioritisation of public health over public gatherings has brought to the fore many online tools and platforms for communication which we have used in planning and producing Northern Lights. The artists who have enthusiastically participated and pledged to donate half of sales proceeds to NHS Charities Together have made this project possible and we are grateful for their time and generosity. One of the most interesting parts of the process has been reading artists’ statements and hearing their thoughts about making art during the lockdown period. To have a textual and visual record of this time and how it has affected each of us provides an opportunity for historical insight and reflection.

In recent months, we’ve learned how to conduct many day-to-day activities virtually: seeing friends and family, shopping, attending classes and concerts. While digital technology has allowed us to connect in a way unimaginable in previous decades, the experience has highlighted the true value of social contact and togetherness. Thankfully, art provides an opportunity for shared understanding and moments of beauty and joy. We hope that the Northern Lights exhibition reflects this and helps us to look forward to brighter days on the horizon. Thank you for taking the time to visit. We hope you will consider supporting NHS Charities Together by investing in work from an extremely talented group of artists from the North East.

Florrie McNamara