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Celebrating Mental Health Awareness with Giant Bears: Darlington Bear Trail 2024

In a vibrant celebration of Mental Health Awareness Week, Giant Bears has teamed up with Darlington Borough Council to create a heartwarming Mental Health Awareness Trail.

This event saw Giant Bears supply 17 blank bear sculptures which were in turn decorated by local artists and community groups, each reflecting different positive emotions and traits such as hope, strength, peace, and curiosity. These colourful bears are displayed around Darlington town centre from May 13th to May 26th, transforming the town into a lively art exhibition and a beacon of mental health awareness.

3 Giant bear sculptures on The Darlington bear trail

A Creative Journey Through Darlington

Have you participated in the Darlington Bear Trail yet, and did you manage to spot all the beautifully designed bears? Each one is strategically placed in shop windows, with two giant bears positioned at the Dolphin Centre and Binns, serving as major highlights of the trail. This initiative encourages community engagement, prompting visitors to explore the town and discover the artistic expressions of mental health positivity.

Darlington Bear Trail; The Artists and Their Bears

Local artists were invited to design a bear that encapsulates a positive emotion, resulting in a diverse and inspiring collection, join us as we take a look at a few of Giant Bears' favourite designs included in the trail:

the determined bear from darlington bear trail

The Determined Bear

The Determined Bear was created by Merlyn Griffiths and it features a design inspired by the 13th Darlington Scout Group. A standout element of this bear is the contribution from ten-year-old Zain Mansy, whose resilient spirit following a severe brain injury influenced the bear's theme.

This bear symbolised sheer determination and the power of positive thinking. The overall design was a combination of designs created by the Darlington Scout Group along with a sprinkling of Merlyn's own work too. Did you spot The Determined Bear on Darlington Bear trail?

the feel good bear from darlington bear trail

The Feel Good Bear

The Feel Good Bear by Darlington Wellbeing the Art of Survival Group, reflected the group's ethos of escaping daily anxieties through creativity and companionship. This bear, is adorned with vibrant sunflowers and cheerful colours, which promoted the idea of finding joy in everyday life.

We think you'll agree this is true feel-good design and deserves to be a top favourite! Darlington Wellbeing the Art of Survival group meet once a week in a safe space to escape the struggles of daily life through painting and socialising together.

the resilience bear from darlington bear trail

The Resilience Bear

The Resilience Bear (also known as Kintsugi) was created by Carol Greenwood, it highlighted the beauty of mending and resilience. It showcases golden seams that represent healing and strength.

Its name means ‘to mend with gold’. The card alongside the bear reads as follows "I fell and I was broken into many pieces, but I was picked back up and lovingly restored with shiny gold seams by people who cared about me. My cracks and breaks are part of me. I don’t hide them. I wear my golden seams with pride to show that I am mended. If you fall, I hope that you too are rescued and mended with gold."

the hopeful bear from darlington bear trail

The Hopeful Bear

The Hopeful Bear by Karen Smith is a reminder that challenging emotions and feelings are only temporary. This bear uses celestial motifs to convey the message of new beginnings and the enduring presence of hope.

Half the bear is painted in dark night time colours with the other half painted in brighter morning colours. The message portrayed by this bear was dark times will always be followed by brighter, more positive times and you won't always feel as dark as you do right now, brighter mornings will follow.

the growth bear from darlington bear trail

The Growth Bear

The Growth Bear, created by Jeanette Tenwick of Fox Loved Designs, it embodies the journey of mental health growth and the importance of mindfulness. Jeanette, a Darlington-based freelance designer and creator, found a new avenue for her artistic expression after experiencing a decline in her mental and physical health. Through Fox Loved Designs, she channels her love for colour and the playful aspects of life into her creations.

Jeanette knew she wanted to illustrate the growth needed in her own mental health journey through her bear design. The Growth Bear symbolises how appreciating the small moments in life—like a raindrop, a singing bird, or a ladybird—can gradually lift the grey clouds and allow us to bloom once more.

the creative bear from darlington bear trail

The Creative Bear

The Creative Bear, was designed by Brian Lee Illustration & Design, it captured the essence of creativity in its many forms. The bear featured imagery that reflects various creative disciplines such as music, painting, illustration, ceramics, architecture, and theatre. Its design included numerous "seeing eyes" inspired by Tamara de Lempicka's work and a rendition of Caspar David Friedrich’s "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog," symbolising someone lost in an imaginative moment. The bear also integrated elements of nature, including plants, flowers, moths, butterflies, and fish, highlighting the theme of regeneration.

Each bear on Darlington Bear Trail is accompanied by a plaque detailing the artist’s inspiration and the story behind the design, enriching the trail with personal and uplifting narratives.

Engaging the Community

Alex Nicholson, the town centre manager, emphasised the trail's role in fostering dialogue about mental health. “We invited local artists to design a bear to reflect a positive emotion. The finished bears are real works of art, and we can’t wait for people to find them around the town centre as they take part in the bear trail,” said Nicholson.

a man stood amongst the bears on Darlington bear trail

Trail maps are available at the Dolphin Centre and various venues across the town, which help to guide visitors through the journey. Once you have completed the trail, the maps can be returned to the golden box at the Dolphin Centre, where they will be entered in a prize draw!

Supporting Mental Health Initiatives

hads holding out pin badges for the darlington bear trail

Now the trail has almost concluded the bears will soon be auctioned off to raise funds for Darlington Mind, a charity dedicated to supporting mental health. This auction not only extends the impact of the event but also provides critical support to mental health services in the community. You can also get your hands on bear-themed pin badges designed by Little Rach, an artist and tattooist at Luck & Love in Clarks Yard. These pin badges are available for a small donation at venues along the trail, and they serve as both souvenirs and symbols of support for mental health awareness.

A Word from Gino, Owner of Giant Bears

"We are incredibly pleased to support the Mental Health Awareness Trail in collaboration with Darlington Borough Council. It is an honour to see our Giant Bear sculptures being used to raise awareness about mental health, a cause that affects so many people. The creativity and positive messages reflected in each bear design is truly inspiring. We hope that this event not only brought joy to visitors but also encourages open conversations about mental health and wellbeing. Our team is proud to contribute to such a meaningful initiative and looks forward to the positive impact it will have on our community."
Gino with a Black Stone Giant Bear Sculpture

The Mental Health Awareness Trail in Darlington is a shining example of how art and community collaboration can foster important conversations about mental health. By engaging local artists and the broader community, this event not only celebrates creativity but also promotes mental well-being. As you explore the trail, you are reminded of the importance of mental health and the support available through organisations like Darlington Mind.

This initiative, supported by Giant Bears and Darlington Borough Council, is a testament to the power of community efforts in making a positive difference. For those interested in seeing these beautiful bears and supporting mental health initiatives, make sure to participate in the upcoming auction.

For more information and updates on the auction, visit Darlington Mind. Together, we can make a significant impact on mental health awareness and support within our community.

A collection of Giant Bear Sculptures

Don't forget to visit our online store to view our range of high quality Giant Bear sculptures perfect additions to any home and office. Our sculptures are available in a range of sizes, styles and designs. They make a perfect gift for special occasions or just a stylish treat for yourself! Contact us for any extra information and make sure to visit our inspiration page for helpful tips and advice to make the most of your new sculpture!



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