TRIBUTES have been paid to a beloved community artist who inspired countless children to pick up their paintbrushes.

Sharon Byrne, 63, died suddenly on January 7, leaving the art community in Southend heartbroken.

She was an integral part of the Focal Point Gallery family for 12 years as learning and engagement curator.

The gallery has received a flood of comments from those who benefited from Sharon’s engagement.

Katharine Stout, director of the Focal Point Gallery, said: “She inspired countless children, young people, the Contemporary Elders group and so many visitors with her dynamic programming and generosity of knowledge and care.

Amy Frampton added: “An amazing women, an inspiration. I will never forget the kindness and support she gave me.”

Beth Dowdeswell also paid tribute on social media.

Posting on Facebook, she said: “I am so sad to hear this news. Sharon influenced the course of my life. She was a positive, kind and creative soul. She will be very much missed.”

Southend Council’s head of culture, Rosemary Pennington, added: “So sorry to hear this. Thoughts are with your family. Sharon was an incredible person and will never be forgotten.”

Colette Bailey, former head of arts group Metal, said: “She leaves an enormous legacy in all the young people she inspired and shared her passion for art and culture with.”

Kendall Judd, a former colleague of Sharon’s when she worked in a bank in London recalled how she decided to follow her heart and talents and “Left to show the world what an amazingly creative and fantastic artist she was. Always smiling, always pleased to see you, gentle and kind.”

Breda Kidd, a teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes School in Leigh, worked with Sharon on art enrichment days with her pupils.

She said: “Sharon not only inspired the children in art but she gave them the self belief and confidence to embrace the many challenges they face as young adults. The children always had a fabulous time.”

Sharon’s paintings are included in the current ‘S is for Southend’ exhibition which runs until 20th February.