There’s no denying it - lockdown has been hard for everyone. Yet in the midst of chaos and uncertainty, an art gallery in Colchester called Firstsite rose to the challenge of keeping going to help the community; providing a spark of hope when people needed it the most. 

Firstsite has now got the recognition it deserves by winning the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2021. The Art Fund prize is the world’s largest museum prize, which celebrates the good work of UK’s museums and galleries. This year was all about ‘resilience and imagination’ - two qualities that Firstsite definitely showed.

Throughout the pandemic, the team at Firstsite helped out locals by using the building to run a food bank with the charity Community 360. Furthermore, Firstsite also made a positive impact on the younger generation. Activity packs were made that were downloaded by over a staggering 92,000 households. These packs provided a colouring book with drawings that were created by artists that Firstsite had got in touch with. A holiday programme was set up which was successful at providing local free, creative and physical activities and freshly cooked meals for over 6,000 people. According to a member of staff that I spoke to, the benefits of Firstite's help are really showing through, with an increase in the number of people who come to Firstsite for the first time now it is more recognised. 

Besides all the committed community work that has gone on, Firstsite is also a place that provides visitors with diverse and interesting pieces of artwork. As soon as you step through the door you are confronted by a large, towering statue going by the name of ‘Essex Man’. This captivating piece of artwork is part of an exhibition that tries to break down misconceptions of the county of Essex. Not only looking at artwork like the striking pieces at Firstsite, but also actively creating, is well known as a great way to relax and help improve your wellbeing. This was particularly helpful when everyone was cooped up at home, trying desperately to find an escape from reality. 

Firstsite was the perfect pandemic saver. From all the work it has done for local people to the art work it displays, it combines the beauty of art with supporting the local community.