The artistic skills of around 95 Wearsiders have gone on display in Sunderland city centre in the first stage of a new initiative.
Amateur artists of all ages – from three upwards – answered the call for creative-minded volunteers to decorate specially commissioned art benches.
It is hoped the seating will encourage people to take time out of their day to relax and reconnect with others.
And the first four benches have now been installed, two at Keel Square and two at the junction between Low Row and High Street West, with a further eight set to follow in the coming weeks.
The project was implemented by Sunderland BID in conjunction with The Art Room Sunderland, which has been holding free workshops for those keen to unleash their creativity.
The Art Room team pre-drew designs, chosen from dozens submitted by the public, onto 24 panels, so groups of all skillsets could set to work painting them.
Artist Kerry Cook and her assistant Emily Doughty have been on hand during the workshops to help with painting techniques and Kerry said she was delighted with the public response.
“We have had grandparents, parents, cousins, friends and neighbours, families who do classes with me at The Art Room and even people who have just come in as they were passing,” she said. “It has been a wonderful mix.”
Schools and community groups have also been involved and Kerry estimates that, by the time all 12 benches are completed, around 350 people will have taken part – and the first names of all participants will be painted on to one of the benches to mark their efforts.
Councillor Linda Williams, Cabinet Member for Vibrant City at Sunderland City Council, said: “It’s fantastic to see the first of these beautiful new benches in place in the city centre.
“As well as adding some colour to our streets, these benches showcase the creativity of Sunderland’s residents while providing a wonderful way for people connect with each other while they are out and about in the city.”
And Sharon Appleby, Chief Executive at Sunderland BID, hopes the benches will not only prove a talking point with residents, shoppers and visitors but also encourage people to sit, linger and engage with each other.
“We all need a little time out now and again just to take stock and watch the world go by,” she said, “and that’s where these benches come in.
“They’ve been created by the community for the community and are a wonderful, colourful and practical addition to the city centre.”
Painting workshops can be booked for a bubble of four people at either 10am, 11am or 1pm and free tickets can be booked via www.ticketsource.co.uk/theartroomsunderland