There was a time when I dreamt of things other than elephants.
As workshop co-ordinator for Artfelt, the Children’s Hospital Charity arts programme, I spend most of my time thinking of ways to get the children in hospital creating, hunting down resources and getting covered in paint.
I love what I do, so when I was approached in October to help the charity with the Herd of Sheffield I jumped at the chance.
The Herd of Sheffield will see over 50 giant fibreglass elephants, all painted by professional artists, scattered throughout the city for 10 weeks this summer. Joining them will be more than 70 baby elephants which have all been designed and painted by pupils at schools throughout the city. It’s going to be the biggest public art event the region has ever seen – and being one of the key organisers has been incredible!
Each elephant is 1.6m tall, 2.4m long and takes anything from two days to over a week to paint. Around half of our artists have been busily working away in ‘Herd HQ’ - a warehouse which Special Steels have let us use for free.
The sense of community in the warehouse is amazing. I often see the artists having their pack-lunches with the warehouse workmen and a couple of our painters have even been to each other houses for tea!
People often ask me which elephant is my favourite but there’s no way I could choose. One of the best things about the Herd is its variety - no two elephants are alike. But seeing what some of Sheffield’s biggest names – Pete McKee, Kid Acne and Tom J Newell for example, have come up with has been really special. One of our most exciting elephants at the moment is Elmer, whose famous patchwork quilt is being painted on by young patients at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. It hasn’t been easy lugging a 40 kilo Elmer around but when you see the smiles of the children, it’s all worth it. Getting the elephants out into the city and watching the trail come to life is going to be incredible. At the end of the 10 weeks we’ll be auctioning them off to raise money for life-saving equipment for the Children’s Hospital Charity.
It’s been a bit chaotic but you can’t really complain when your job involves organising 6ft works of art and meeting fascinating people. My neighbours keep asking me when I’ll be getting an elephant in my garden and it’s fair to say that I’ve been a bit elephant obsessed lately.
But it’s been such good fun – I don’t want it to end!