RETRO: Home is where the art is

Children's Art'John Curtis and Gillian Stennett in the Art Room at Fiskerton School'7th December 1955
Children's Art'John Curtis and Gillian Stennett in the Art Room at Fiskerton School'7th December 1955

John Ruskin said that no artist worth sixpence a day would live in Sheffield. The critic, who would go on to become one of the city’s greatest philanthropists, believed the smog here choked any possible creativity in the late 19th century.

He was, as these pictures prove, wrong.

12 years old John Ellison of Meynell Road School has a flare for art.  He has designed and drawn a mural for the school canteen and is seen working on his 'masterpiece' - 20th February ?

12 years old John Ellison of Meynell Road School has a flare for art. He has designed and drawn a mural for the school canteen and is seen working on his 'masterpiece' - 20th February ?

Sheffield has become one of the UK’s pre-eminent art cities. There are more professionals working here than anywhere outside London, while The Great Sheffield Show, held annually at The Octagon, is the biggest such event in the north.

Now Tuesday Retro starts a new A-Z series showcasing images of some of the hobbies and activities beloved here in South Yorkshire. And we begin with A is for Art.

“We live in a very creative city,” says Mike Fearn chairman of The Great Art Show. “Why is that? It’s difficult to put your finger on it.

“I think the surroundings help. You can’t help but be inspired living this close to the Peak District.

“But perhaps the history has something to do with it. The cutlery industry required creative minds. That spirit goes on today.”

Indeed, there seems to be something for everyone here: from sculptures to street art, oil paintings to abstract ‘what’s-going-on’ exhibitions at places like Site and Bank Street Arts. Galleries include everything from the big civic centres – like Graves Gallery – to small suburban venues, such as Smart Art in Totley.

Studio space – like the Creative Arts Development Space in Smithfield – seems to pop up in disused industrial units on a monthly basis.

Events include Open Up – where artists across the region invite the public into their workspace once a year – to Art In The Garden, a charity riot of creativity in the Botanical Gardens.

And for those that need inspiration there’s no lack of professionals who call the city home including such famous names as Joe Scarborough, Pete McKee and Kid Acne.

“It’s a great place to practise art,” says Karen Sherwood, who runs Cupola gallery in Hillsborough. “But so is anywhere really.

“Being creative is just the best hobby to have.”