United Art Project

Major Traumatic events such as war, terrorist bombing and natural disasters, transcend the realms of individual suffering and enter the universal and collective sphere…in the long run, collective trauma...needs a group setting for its proper exploration and resolution.” (Kellerman, 2007 in Leveton, 2010)

The aim of the Covid-19 United Art project was to get creative whilst we were all keeping safe in our houses.

As the world was experiencing the notion of a lock down in very unique ways; The Bradford Council opened up a RESPONSE fund to get creative, and I thought to myself – what a great idea to capture this in an engaging and fun way… in a painting!

All qualifying households comprised of those isolating alone, or in households of 5 persons max (due to funding). The husbands and wives, the mums, the dads, the sons and daughters, the grandmas and grandads: the NHS staff, the fiancées, the furloughed, the self-employed, the jobless: the students, the widows and widowers, the housemates, the step mums and dads, the teenagers, the next door neighbours… the whole community of Bradford and the borders were involved! All 107 participants agreed to be available on the same date (Friday 22nd May 2020) where the mass 24hour, midnight-to-midnight painting session commenced.

I left it up to the households and the individual ‘Picassos’ (I called everyone ‘Picasso’ because I believe we are all artists and I just needed those participating to believe it also) to decide when to lay their first and last colours; as life and literature states- we are all creatively productive at different times of the day!

The one thing I asked was that the canvas was completed by the individual themselves, no impeding judgements, opinions, ideas from others. I wanted each member of the project to allow a space where they could immerse themselves and surrender to the art of painting. My aim was to capture the thoughts and feelings of the members as they painted. The processes they endured and the minute flashes of ideas and reflections that entered their psyche as they chose their colours, stroked their canvas, and crafted their images- all placed into context by the current pandemic. This direction was coupled with the reassurance that at some point on the ‘paint day’ another human, in another household would be painting at the same time as them, further re-enforcing the message that they were not alone!

These masterpieces: created by the Bradford people have become a ‘collage of unity’, giving symbolic expression to this newfound, uncertain experience (Leveton, 2010). And so, I supported the families into making this project an excitable, therapeutically inspired and uniting event by offering crucial art inspired tips and creating a forum to join and share.

The households got to keep the art materials – paints and brushes as an incentive to paint more! I just collected back the canvases. The project included a handful of 4-5yr olds and a 93yr old gent who found my first advertisement in the Telegraph and Argus! From my project – this 93yr old was featured in the telegraph and argus himself AND appears on the Not just Hockney website - how fantastic!

The feedback generated from the households was wonderful to read and learn from. They shared how they used zoom to connect with grandchildren and loved ones to paint together when a member was shielding. They shared how they used the project as ‘family time’ all painting together. Some members also shared how they used the painting day as an excuse to carve out some ‘me time’ from the uncertain daily chaos. Some loved the excuse to pick back up their brushes and get creative again, some shared how they wanted the free paints for their children and in turn were willing to try and paint a canvas too – meaning they were actually going to try do something they were petrified of and that was completely new to them! There were a lot of painting of Rainbows, of the elements, and of trees! A massive theme coming from my project feels to be Mother Nature!

As a Dramatherapist – this feedback has been a sheer delight to read and reflect upon, and I look forwards to the time and space where I can write up a report on all that has been uncovered from this project – there is some beautiful data to be interpreted I’m sure! 

A Facebook members page has been created where we all share the wonderful paintings we have done since the project ‘Paint Day’. There are some fabulous artists in there; and some completely new to the idea of painting so we have a real mixed bunch all just willing to share and build each other up. We are all now awaiting part 2 of the C-19 United Art Project; which is an actual exhibition where the families and their friends and the general public can come along and see the magnificent individual masterpieces that were created back in May 2020. I then envision the piece – consisting of 107 (9 x12) canvases being joined to create one massive collage style piece – demonstrating the connections that were made in that 24-hour painting period, and thereafter.

I spoke on BCB radio twice; before and after the project ‘Paint Day’; and featured in the T&A so going forwards I would love to get the likes of Look North or Calendar to come and televise the actual exhibition itself – the members who took the time to be a part of this project all deserve their creations to be exposed to the world- But we will start with Yorkshire! 😊

I see this project as a monumental piece of history to be revered for years to come, and a definite asset for Bradford’s ‘City of Culture 2025’ bid.

It has been truly wonderful to see the ripples of my project continuing to flow, some fantastic connections have been made. I feel so grateful that my idea was seen and validated by the Bradford Council – It provided both myself and the local community with hope, focus and motivation and offered a space to create and come together!

And now, you just watch this space for the creative ideas I have moving forwards with this project!

Thank you, and enjoy the Masterpieces – created by a group of modern-day Picasso’s.

Kayle McCoy – Covid-19 United Art Project Creator

 

Here's some of the pictures taken on Paint Day by the families who participated:

 

And here is some of the incredible finished artworks!

To see all of the images created as part of the project visit @kayledramatherapy on Instagram

With thanks to Kayle McCoy and everyone who took part in the United Art Project for sharing their work.