The show features over 300 artworks and found objects brought together to explore the city’s waterways and their impact. The display includes more traditional artworks such as paintings and poems but also found objects pulled from the rivers themselves.
City of Rivers works as a collection of stories that chart the history of Sheffield’s waterways and the community’s relationship to them, by drawing on contributions from the city’s residents. This includes efforts by eco-activists to restore the rivers and improve biodiversity.
Wild swimmer Rachel Heley provided some items from her swim brand while the Sheaf and Porter Rivers Trust, who work to restore and improve access to two of Sheffield’s most famous waterways, have contributed items found in the rivers, from oyster shells to a lost BlackBerry.
Composer Benjamin Tassie has created a set of experimental instruments which can be played by the river itself. He describes it as a soothing experience of interacting with River Rivelin, attempting to collaborate with nature while not dominating sound.
Viewers will also find a metal topographical map of Sheffield by artist Holly Clifford, with the rivers hand engraved and filled with silver leaf.
City of Rivers also aims to raise the profile of the so-called Rivelin Valley artists, the now mostly forgotten group of landscape painters from the last century who created romanticised snapshots of the industrial River Rivelin, having created an artists colony based in the area. The artists included Robert Scott-Temple who is perhaps the most famous of the group, as well as William R E Goodrich, Ben Baines, Charles Edwin Dyson, Vernon Edwards and Charles Pigott. Their post-WWI compositions capture the ways in which the industrial intertwined with the natural in the landscape.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a number of events, including a talk in January on a sense of place in relation to rivers by the River Stewardship Company, as well as training sessions in river stewarding skills for children.