Jo Peel is the first artist to design, paint and unveil her bear for the Bears of Sheffield sculpture trail coming to the city’s streets this summer.
The Bears of Sheffield trail is coordinated by The Children’s Hospital Charity and is a new take on their previous city-wide art event ‘Herd of Sheffield’ which raised a huge £610,000 for Sheffield Children’s Hospital back in 2016.
Alongside Jo’s bear, which is named ‘Doug’, there will be a further 59 Big Bears designed and painted by other local and national artists for businesses to sponsor, as well as 100 Little Bears designed and painted by schools from across the region. All the money raised will help to transform the Cancer and Leukaemia Ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
The ward treats children with cancer and blood disorders from babies through to 19-year olds from South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire and as far south as Northampton. Whilst the care patients receive on the ward is world-class, the facilities need our help, which is why funds raised will go towards new and improved spaces for patients and their families.
This isn’t the first time Jo has actively supported The Children’s Hospital Charity, back in 2016 she painted ‘The City Elephant’ which was auctioned off to Commercial Facilities Engineers Ltd (CFE) for a huge £6,600, so it’s safe to say her bear will certainly be a highlight on the sculpture trail.
Jo described the design process for her bear: “I had a rough idea about the plan for the bear, honestly I spent a lot of time with it blank, just staring at it, imagining how it would all eventually come together.
“This time round, I wanted to make sure I added some personality into the bear because with the elephant, I simply used it as a canvas for my artwork, but with the bear I wanted to keep it looking like a bear.
“I put a circle on its heart, the crane hook on his eye and made the arms look more like tattoos to really give it some character rather than using it as a plain canvas.
“My art represents me trying to understand the world, I look at the finer details – I’m fascinated by people, buildings, and the environment because it’s such an interesting struggle, the constant dialogue between the displacement of environment for buildings and then nature fighting back.
“So, the message behind the bear is to look at your environment and think about it. Think about its past, its present and what the future might hold – every small detail in buildings and deconstruction has an impact on the world around us.
“The project is a fantastic way of discovering new ways of working and tackling the challenge of a 3D sculpture if you’ve never done one before. I love the fact schools are having little bears to paint, it’s a good way for children to experiment with work that’s going to be in the public domain.
Jo has previously worked with Artfelt, The Children’s Hospital Charity’s art programme painting a Flammable Liquid Store in the courtyard to the New Build of the hospital. The cityscape is recognisable as Jo’s work and makes a welcoming visual to the new staff entrance.
“The Bears of Sheffield is such a worthwhile and brilliant thing to do which will change the lives of so many children and their families, to be able to do my job whilst raising money for The Children’s Hospital Charity is simply wonderful.”
Pippa Cook, Arts Coordinator for the Bears, said: “We’ve had some really fantastic design submissions for the bears and now have a very difficult job ahead with the shortlisting process.
“The reaction we’ve had has been even bigger and better than the Herd and I can’t wait to see how the artists, both local and national, use the same canvas to create totally different pieces of artwork and raise funds for such a worthy cause.”