Celebrating Sheila Graber at 81: Special exhibition looks back on life's work of much-loved South Shields artist and animator - not forgetting her cat

A special exhibition looking back on the life’s work of much-loved South Tyneside animator Sheila Graber will mark the reopening of a popular museum.

Sheila Graber and her cat will be the stars of the show when South Shields Museum and Art Gallery reopens
Sheila Graber and her cat will be the stars of the show when South Shields Museum and Art Gallery reopens

Award-winning animator and trailblazing teacher Sheila, perhaps most famous for her work on children's television series Paddington, will be the star of the show – together with her cat – when the South Shields Museum and Art Gallery reopens its doors on May 17.

Sheila’s major retrospective exhibition will be in honour of her 81st birthday, and while originally scheduled for May 2020, the exhibition is now set to be unveiled when the museum reopens in line with covid restrictions.

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The family-friendly exhibition, entitled ‘Sheila from Shields, her cat, and the rainbow’, brings together the full range of Graber’s engaging and passionate work, including landscapes, portraits, and delightful animations.

Sheila Graber at work

The museum team said her playful and humorous cartoon feline companion features throughout.

Geoff Woodward, museum manager, said Sheila has encouraged and inspired countless others so, as well as celebrating her own work, the exhibition will capture her wider impact and offer the opportunity for everyone to try their hand at creating artwork.

“It’s great to finally be opening this fantastic exhibition by Sheila Graber after a long wait due to the pandemic. I am hugely supportive of Sheila’s work; her talent and passion to advocate for the creativity that exists in everyone is inspiring,” he said.

During the Covid 19 pandemic, Sheila has reflected on her artistic journey and taken the opportunity to re-shape and re-think the themes and content of the original exhibition to further heighten its relevance for today.

Quizicat, Graber's playful and humorous cartoon cat companion features throughout the exhibition

"My Aunty Mabel, who lived to be 102, said ‘Everyone needs something to pass the time.’. I reckon we have all found this to be hugely true throughout this past locked down year,” she said.

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"‘Making things’ has kept many of us sane, and my exhibition proves the important role ‘making’ plays in all our lives. I’ve been planning this show for 4 years now - and it seems I am about to reach my goal - largely thanks to a great saying of my Mam’s that I have tried to follow all my 81 years ‘Never, never, never give up!’."

Covid safety measures will be in place at the museum. To find out more and plan your visit at southshieldsmuseum.org.uk

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A painting of Herd Groyne Lighthouse in stormy weather, by Sheila Graber