This lockdown project is turning Paddington into a massive art gallery

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Barbara Gruber - photo credit: Guy Degen

Barbara Gruber - photo credit: Guy Degen

    COVID-19; Local places and faces; Paddington

Published 30 August 2021

Everyone needs something to do in lockdown. Some of us watch way too much Netflix. Some of us bake bread. But Paddington resident Barbara Gruber has put us all to shame by turning her entire suburb into a massive public art project.

It’s called Paddington Lockdown Art. The idea is simple: Paddington residents are encouraged to share the artworks they’ve created in lockdown, both to celebrate their creativity and to bring a bit of joy to other locals out for their daily exercise.

Paddo Lockdown Art
The Glass Groper - #paddolockdownart

The whole thing started when Ms Gruber, who works for the German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, made a sculpture of a grouper using wire and bits of sea glass she found on Milk Beach. She hung the fish in front of her terrace and it began to attract people who were out for a lockdown walk.

"I noticed that people were stopping by and having a conversation and starting to think about making art themselves,” she said. “But a lot of people say, 'Oh, I don't know, I'm not creative’... but we're all creative and we all have stories to tell. That's something that I think is important."

Paddo Lockdown Art - street chalk
Street Chalk Art - #paddolockdownart

So, encouraged by Woollahra Councillor Harriet Price, Ms Gruber started an Instagram account called @paddingtonlockdownart and created an interactive map to allow people to tag their artworks. Pretty soon, artworks were appearing in windows and front yards, on balconies, verges and verandahs. So far there are 23 projects marked on the map, from a Spoonville (a garden of spoon people) to murals and gallery windows. The artists include professionals, art teachers and local primary school students.

Paddo Lockdown Art - Spoonville
Visit Spoonville - #paddolockdownart

Things went into another gear when Ms Gruber thought to ask local businesses, many shuttered due to public health restrictions, whether they might be willing to lend their window space. The response has been overwhelming.

Paddo Lockdown Art - Shop Windows
Shop Window Art - #paddlockdownart

Working with Jen Roberts of Creative Kids Co, she installed displays in the windows of the former Paddington Pharmacy owned Five Ways Dental. Soon the duo were joined by Ky Smith of ArtLab on Ocean Street and the Glenmore Road Public School art teachers, as well as parents Lisa Taylor and Claire Crompton. Now the list of small businesses involved is growing by the day, and includes Café Gusto, Christo's Pizzeria, LoveDuck, Loop Hairdressers, Sonder Café, Café Five Ways, Next Attraction, Good Day Girl, Just William Chocolates, Modify Architects, KMD Lawyers, Maeda Japanese restaurant and Flow Athletics.

Just this weekend an exhibition of Glenmore Road Public School’s Year 4 students’ Vincent Van Gogh-inspired paintings opened at the Sabbia Gallery space, while senior students’ Picasso paintings went up in Christo’s, Year 2 collages in KMD lawyers and ArtLab collages in Gusto. The aim is now to secure a window for every class at Glenmore Road.

Ms Gruber says adults are also submitting art and photographs they've produced during lockdown to #paddolockdownart and she's looking for a shop window in Paddington to exhibit their works.

Paddo Lockdown Art - Starry Night
Starry Nights - #paddolockdownart

"It's beautiful to see how one idea generates and ignites another one. It's all very low key, though it does require quite a bit of a sort of coordination, but it's beautiful to see how it's growing and people are joining in."

For Ms Gruber, who plans to return to Berlin with her family at the end of the year, the project is also a final tribute to Paddington, a neighbourhood she has fallen in love with.

"It's a little way of saying thank you to this amazing place that I've been fortunate to experience living in. We are so privileged to have been part of such a caring community."

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    COVID-19; Local places and faces; Paddington

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