Age of Creativity

In 2020 we exhibited ‘Received Wisdom’, our first Arts Council Collection exhibition at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.

Received Wisdom explored the relationship between age and creativity, celebrating the work artists have made later in their lives, and the exhibition highlights what we know to be true from our work with older audiences: that age is no barrier to creativity.

As part of the exhibition, we took part in Age UK’s annual Age of Creativity Festival, bringing together and highlighting the creativity of the older people in our Sunderland community.

With venues closed during the pandemic, Age of Creativity Festival moved online, and so did we! Every week on our social media channels, we celebrated the work we have done, and continue to do, with our older audiences. Take a look below!

Creative ideas for self-isolated March 2020 (1)

In the document above Age of Creativity have suggested loads of great online activities for you to enjoy including dance, music, art and literature!

  • Creative Age - Arts Centre Washington Celebration Event

    Singing in the Rain and Have A Go-ers are Arts Centre Washington’s very own groups for people living with dementia and their carers. They meet weekly for creative sessions and have explored a range of art forms since the programme started back in 2016, following Equal Arts’ Dementia and Imagination model.

    At the start of 2020, the groups have worked with artist Betty Hill on a special Coat of Arms project. During the initial stages of the project the participants have explored the heritage and historical meaning of coats of arms together with the reasons behind the colours, symbols and positions of each element. Every family has designed and created their own shield based on their family’s history but also their own interests and work careers. Each piece plays with the rules to represent a variety of images and ideas, from hobbies to mottos, mythical creatures, folklore and local landmarks like Penshaw Monument and Roker Lighthouse.

    Local care homes joined us in our big Open Day of celebrations, exploring our Coat of Arms public exhibition and taking part in drop-in creative activities like singing and collaborative mark-marking!

    This project was supported by Sunderland Culture and Sunderland City Council

    Congratulations to our group members Elsie and Derek, Becky and Pat, Ian and Linda, Billy and Elizabeth, Eddie and Pat, Brian and Barbara, Anne and Vera.

    A special shout out to our volunteer Amelia for her brilliant help throughout the project!

  • Creative Age Phone Project

    Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens and Arts Centre Washington are excited to launch their new Creative Age Phone Project for people living with dementia and their carers isolating at home. The project has been planned in continuity with the pre-lockdown regular Creative Age sessions happening on a weekly basis and has been devised as a bridge to connect participants together through arts and creativity.

    We are delivering a special programme of craft activities over a period of 12 weeks for participants in Sunderland and Washington. At the beginning of each week participants will receive step by step instructions and photos via email and will be ready to work on their piece during their usual Creative Age time! Staff will follow up through a phone call to check in on participants, have a chat and offer remote support with each activity. All participants are also taking part in Equal Arts’ Create at Home programme of artist led monthly creative packs. Special thanks to Josie Brookes for sourcing some brilliant, colourful paper that will help make their creations even more fantastic!

    Keep your eyes peeled on our social media pages for photos of the work created throughout the project!

    Plus, if you’re not part of an existing group and would like to buy a Create at Home pack, you can buy one here: 

    Designed to help people keep connected and creative, these packs by Equal Arts have been developed by professional artists and contains four arts activities for you to dip into and explore each month alongside a larger theme for a collaborative piece of artwork.

  • Film: Who Do You Want to Meet?


    (Click the symbol in the right-hand corner to make the film larger)

    ‘Who Do You Want To Meet?’ was a project designed to bring together groups from across the city, who had never worked together, to create shared works of art in styles and forms that suited them.

    This particular project was devised by a group of over 65+ dancers based at St Luke’s church in Paillon. This group were originally formed as part of a project that used dance to help older people regain or maintain their balance and fitness as they aged. They worked with a group of young mothers who were part of the Friends of the Drop-In refugees and asylum seekers group.

    Over the course of the project these women worked together with dance artist Tracey West to create a beautiful and gentle dance titled ‘Weave’ which looked at the concept of caring and nurturing, finding ways to move and express themselves in a way which demonstrated the creativity and life experiences of these wonderful women.

  • Connectedness project

    At Sunderland Culture, we are passionate advocates of the arts. Creativity in all its forms is an essential part of being human and vital for wellbeing – and we believe this is true for people of all ages!

    Sunderland Culture’s Unleash Programme is part of the Great Place Scheme, the programme sets out to explore how creativity and culture can impact on health and wellbeing for individuals and communities.

    In February this year, we worked in partnership with Sunderland City Council, Washington Mind and Gentoo on the Coalfields Connectedness event which aimed to connect young people with those who are ageing well together.

    We wanted to provide unique, high quality and innovative creative experiences for attendees. We worked with Bare Toed Theatre Company who brought their aerial rig and circus equipment which was enjoyed by participants from ages 5 to 95! We also held a silent disco and ran wish flags workshops. We had some special moments with residents from local care homes and the nursery who interacted with each other through creative activity.

    Here are some pictures from the event:

    The Unleash programme is produced by Sunderland Culture through our Great Place programme and made possible by National Lottery players, funded by Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund.

  • Arts Award Project – Little Onion Club

    From January to March 2020 museum staff and artists worked on an Arts Award project with staff, residents, volunteers and members of the Little Onion Club, a gardening club for children aged 5 – 15 years old based at Donwell House Care Home and Willow Brook assisted living accommodation in Washington.


    The aim of the project was to introduce the children and residents to artworks in the Received Wisdom exhibition from Arts Council Collection and encourage them to work creatively together through weekly art sessions at each venue. This was a new experience for the residents and children who had not previously worked together in this way.

    Between 2 and 4 residents took part each week from each home, supported by care staff, with 6 children at Willow Brook and 10 children at Donwell House, supported by Little Onion Club volunteers and parents/grandparents.

    The programme was inspired by nature, the environment, impermanence and change, which were themes recurring in artworks by Lubaina Himid, Charlie Meecham, Keith Arnatt and Nerys Johnson in the exhibition. Activities included collage, printing, painting and clay modelling and artists Ruth Thompson and Jo Howell worked with the 2 groups together on willow sculpture and photography days, using the garden at Donwell House as inspiration.

    Staff, volunteers, residents and families visited the Museum to see the Received Wisdom exhibition in February Half Term and at the end of the project a celebration event took place at each care setting with an exhibition of artwork produced, music and refreshments. Certificates were awarded to the children and residents at the celebration events.

  • ONLINE EXHIBITION - Andrew Tift - One Day You'll Be Older Too

    Artist Andrew Tift created a series of intricately drawn pencil portraits of residents living in Washington care homes.  These sensitive images capture a moment in time and celebrate the lives of some of Sunderland’s older residents.

    This exhibition was due to be on display at Arts centre Washington this month and we wanted to share these wonderful images in support of every one who lives and works in our cities care homes.

    Andrew said “I wanted to interpret the residents very much as individuals and depict them in the most intimate and sensitive way that I could. Texture of skin, bone structure, expression, mood, scars, hands, hair, eyes, clothes depicted in microscopic detail as we try to unravel that person’s identity and experience which is so ingrained within their face”

    This exhibition was previously shown at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens to accompany the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing.



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