4. Self Esteem (Rebecca Lucy Taylor) by Karina Lax 2019, printed 2021 © Karina Lax

Sheffield, Represent! – New Exhibition Celebrates Inspirational City Figures

Who are the people that represent Sheffield? A new exhibition at the Millennium Gallery created in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery poses that very question and celebrates some of the pioneers, performers, athletes and artists synonymous with our city.

Opening on Thursday 30 June, Creative Connections Sheffield brings together over 30 works from the National Portrait Gallery and the city’s own collection, including portraits of Alex Turner, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Sean Bean, Self Esteem, Otis Mensah, Helen Sharman, Mary, Queen of Scots and more. The works go on display alongside a brand-new, large-scale commission by Sheffield artist Conor Rogers and young people from Sheffield Park Academy.

(Alex Turner. Photo by: Julian Broad)

Creative Connections is a national participation project which sees the National Portrait Gallery showcase highlights from its collection in partnership with galleries, artists and young people to explore ideas of place, community and the people who inspire us. Works on display in Sheffield include three contemporary portraits of inspirational city figures, which join the National Portrait Gallery’s extensive Collection as part of the project.

The exhibition also highlights some surprising and lesser-known connections to Sheffield, including those of US aviator Amy Johnson, founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale, and award-winning author A.S. Byatt.

(‘Existed Once’: Otis Mensah. Photo by: Raluca de Soleil)

The centrepiece of the exhibition sees students from Sheffield Park Academy work with artist Conor Rogers to create brand new artwork exploring ideas of place, community and inspiration. The installation, based around a decommissioned bus shelter, includes original artwork created by Conor and the young people inspired by the themes of the exhibition.

Conor Rogers said: “It has been an honour to witness the impact this project has played on these students. Hailing from the same communities and even attending the same school as the students taking part, I have a deep connection to what we are trying to achieve from this project. Together, we have collectively challenged our own personal limitations, as well as the systematic limitations which prevent certain areas in society from having the opportunities they deserve. Though our approach wasn’t conventional and came with risk and responsibility, we’ve represented ourselves and the people of Sheffield in what I believe to be a truly authentic collection of socially-engaged portraiture.”

In addition to their own creative work, the young people have also been involved in the development of the wider exhibition, with their contributions featured on many of the information labels that accompany the works.

The exhibition and its associated event programme will also invite visitors and attendees to reflect on the people who they feel should be recognised as inspirational Sheffield figures.

Creative Connections Sheffield opens at Millennium Gallery on Thursday 30 June and continues until Sunday 2 October 2022 – entry to the exhibition is free.

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