Oxford’s #PortraitsForNHSHeroes artist Tom Croft has been awarded a Medal of the Order of the British Empire (BEM) in this years Honours List for ‘services to the arts and charity during Covid-19’.
The portrait artist from Wolvercote is delighted and humbled by the accolade and dedicates it to all the artists and frontline NHS workers who continue to make the project such a global success.
“I just hope this might provide a little ray of sunshine in the turmoil of the pandemic for all those who have taken part”
“I don’t feel remotely worthy. It’s not about me, it’s about the project and everyone who has taken part, but I am glad to have done something of value,” he says.
“When I opened the email, I thought they’d sent the email to the wrong person,” Tom laughs. “I just hope this might provide a little ray of sunshine in the turmoil of the pandemic for all those who have taken part,” he says.
“For my dad and his generation this award meant everything so I will be eternally grateful I got to share news ABOUT THE MEDAL with him”
Tom Croft began the project in April 2020 by offering to paint an NHS frontline worker to thank them for their incredible work fighting the pandemic. READ ABOUT IT HERE: https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/the-incredible-story-of-how-oxford-based-painter-tom-crofts-project-portraitsfornhsheroes-became-global/
Nurse Harriet, who is based at the MRI in Manchester replied and when he posted the finished work on social media, artists all over the UK followed suit. The idea then spread around the world and around 14,000 portraits have now been completed.
“I am Honoured, humbled and unworthy. I am just so proud of what has been achieved”
Throw in a Google online gallery, Bloomsbury’s Portraits for NHS Heroes bestselling book whose profits go to hospital charities, and new commissions still being undertaken every day, and you can see why Tom made the Honours List.
But for Tom, being able to relay the news to his father Kemble Croft (who lived around the corner in Wolvercote), days before he died over Christmas, was life changing:
“For my dad and his generation this award meant everything so I will be eternally grateful I got to share the news with him before he died,” Tom says.
The British Empire Medal was founded in 1917 and awarded for “meritorious” actions by civilians or military personnel. It was scrapped in 1993, but nearly 20 years later, Prime Minister David Cameron brought the medal back, with around 300 awarded every year.
So how does Tom feel about being awarded such a prestigious accolade? “Honoured, humbled, unworthy…” he says. “I am just so proud of what has been achieved.”
The online exhibition at https://artsandculture.google.com/project/healthcare-heroes in collaboration with Paintings In Hospitals features 800 images with input from the likes of Oxford author Mark Haddon, art historian Kate Bryan and artist Roxana Halls, as well as advice on how art can help your mental health and so much more.
Featuring on the big screen in Piccadilly Circus was another highlight. “Seeing Harriet up there was quite something, because that was always the point, putting the frontline workers centre stage to highlight their amazing work and remind people how they are saving lives every day,” Tom says.
Making the front cover of Artists & Illustrators was another high, and the recently published Bloomsbury book, whose proceeds go to hospital charities, has a foreword by author Michael Rosen, Dr Jim Down and artist Adebanji Alade, and went to No1 on Amazon over Christmas.
“Michael Rosen felt particularly indebted to the NHS because he contracted Covid really badly and didn’t think he’d have made it through without our incredible NHS,” Tom explains. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Portraits-NHS-Heroes-Tom-Croft/dp/1448218004
And with the pandemic still raging, Tom hopes the project will continue to grow, support and promote the NHS frontline workers in their efforts to keep us all alive.
“This feels like a pivotal moment for us all, a really scary time, so we mustn’t slacken off. I hope this project reminds people to do our own tiny part by staying safe. I was just pleased that our profession has made a difference through art and offering a historical platform for future generations to understand.”
Next up, Tom is helping establish a similar project in America while hoping to plan an exhibition of the work in a national museum in the UK. “I want somewhere that people can come and physically see the work for themselves,” he says.
For more information go to http://thomascroft.co.uk