LOCAL artists and a group of Wearside youngsters have been inspired by the forthcoming Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition to create their own Mackem Mona Lisas.

The much-anticipated Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing exhibition arrives at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens next month. The exhibition will feature 12 drawings from the Italian master and is part of a national tour to mark the 500th anniversary of his death. Sunderland is one of 12 UK venues chosen by Royal Collection Trust to simultaneously host the exhibition, which will feature a total of 144 of Leonardo drawings.

Sunderland artist Ian Potts has been working with members of his Fulwell Library Art Group (FLAG) and young people from the Southwick Neighbourhood Youth Project (SNYP) to create their own versions of one of Leonardo’s great masterpieces, the Mona Lisa.

FLAG members painted their own versions of the famous artwork. Among them were Davy Robson who created his own LS Lowry version of the painting and Sue Martin, who painted the Mona Lisa as former BBC News Chief Reporter Kate Adie, who grew up in Sunderland.

Ian said: “FLAG has only recently been formed and I thought this was a great project for them to start with – what they’ve produced in only a few short weeks is remarkable really. We’ve all been inspired by the extraordinary work of Leonardo and I think everyone in the group will be attending the exhibition when it arrives.

“The young people of SNYP have been a joy to work with and we created versions of the Mona Lisa using items and plastics we found washed up on the beach, as well as everyday items we found in homes.”

Ruth Oxley, Project Co-ordinator at SNYP said the youngsters had very much enjoyed the sessions with Ian: “They had a great time and loved working with the different materials they’d found.”

The artwork produced by FLAG and SNYP were exhibited at Mackie’s Corner last weekend. (Jan 19 and 20). Mackie’s Corner is to be developed as part of the wider development of the Hutchinson buildings, but in the meantime, the space has been donated to Sunderland Culture to help bring more art into the city centre.  The Mackie’s Corner project has been funded through National Lottery funding from the Great Place Scheme, a joint fund from Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund (thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players) to put arts, culture and heritage at the heart of communities.

Jo Cunningham, Exhibitions, Collections and Archive Manager at Sunderland Museum, added: “It’s great to see so many different groups and projects that have been inspired by the forthcoming Leonardo exhibition – it really seems to have captured the imagination.”

Councillor Stuart Porthouse, Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration at Sunderland City Council, said: “Mackie’s Corner holds a very special place in the hearts of Sunderland people and it’s fantastic to see this historic building being used again for this imaginative project.”

Following the exhibitions at the 12 venues, the drawings will be brought together to form part of an exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, the largest exhibition of Leonardo’s work in more than 65 years. A selection of 80 drawings will then travel to The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in November.

Tickets for Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing, costing £2.50, can be pre-booked online by visiting or at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens’ reception during opening hours. Entry for under-16s is free, but they will need a ticket.

For information and updates on the supporting activities and events, log on to the museum’s website or check social media using the hashtags #SunderlandLeo and #Leonardo500.

FLAG meets every Wednesday between 10am and noon and new members would be welcome.

The Mona Lisa is a half-length portrait painting that has been described as “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world.” It is also one of the most valuable paintings in the world and thought to portray Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo. It had been believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506 but recent research suggests it may have been later. The painting is on permanent display at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

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