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Creative Connections Coventry

Creative Connections connects young people with contemporary artists to create new art that explores people and places.


Taking inspiration from the collections at the National Portrait Gallery and the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, artist Maryam Wahid has worked with students from Barr’s Hill School to explore and celebrate Coventry people. A series of portraits of the students by Maryam Wahid are displayed alongside paintings and photographs from the Galleries’ collections. The exhibition presents portraits and inspirational stories of people associated with Coventry - including George Eliot, EM Forster, Philip Larkin, The Specials, Susan Hill, Sarah Siddons, Ellen Terry, Billie Whitelaw, John Piper and Mo Mowlam.

Guz Khan by Rankin (John) Rankin Waddell), Photographs Collection,                  Billie Whitelaw by Jane Bown © The Jane Bown Literary Estate,
National Portrait Gallery, London                                                                                 National Portrait Gallery, London

The exhibition connects artworks from the two galleries by highlighting the creative links between the people on display and their work. Highlights include a portrait of Vanley Burke displayed next to commissioned photographs from the Herbert’s collection, portraits of Basil Spence and Graham Sutherland presented alongside the Trial Piece for the tapestry within Coventry Cathedral and a portrait of Benjamin Britten, who wrote the War Requiem for the consecration of Coventry Cathedral displayed next to work by Matthew Picton who uses the score of War Requiem to create a map of Coventry showing the destruction of the city in the Blitz. 

The exhibition includes portraits recently acquired for the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent Collection, including Rankin’s photograph of the comedian and actor, Guz Khan, politicians Zarah Sultana, MP for Coventry South, and Taiwo Owatemi, MP for Coventry North West and Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, taken by Charlotte Hadden. These works were selected by Maryam and the students from Barrs Hill as inspirational and relatable people connected with Coventry today.

The Selecter (including Pauline Black, Arthur ('Gaps') Hendrickson;                      John Piper by Lola Walker (Lola Marsden) © Lola Marsden,
Charley ('H.') Bembridge) by Janette Beck, National Portrait Gallery, London       National Portrait Gallery, London

Creative Connections is part of the National Portrait Gallery’s transformational Inspiring People project which includes an extensive programme of nationwide activities, funded by The National Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund. These ambitious partnerships with museums, local community groups and schools aim to bring the Gallery closer to communities across the UK.

Maryam Wahid is an award-winning artist. Through photography she expresses the origins of the Pakistani community in her hometown of Birmingham by exploring her deeply rooted family history and the mass integration of migrants within the UK. Her work focuses on womanhood, the history of the South Asian community in Britain and the notion of home and belonging.

Declan, 13 years old, loves Radford Common in Coventry City, by Maryam Wahid.            Aunty Sugra with her daughter & grand-daughter, From the series Women of Newport (2021) by Maryam Wahid.



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