The opening of an exhibition of school students’ art work in Armidale last Friday evening was the occasion for a community-wide celebration of emerging artistic talent in regional NSW.
The New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) was crowded with family members, friends and teachers of the young artists, as well as people from throughout the local community – all admiring the 60 works on display in the “Let’s Hang It!” exhibition.
Those works were chosen from the 500 entries – from all over NSW – in the seventh annual University of New England Schools Acquisitive Art Prize (UNESAP) competition.
Speaking at last Friday’s opening, the Head of UNE’s School of Education, Professor Len Unsworth, praised the founder and director of the competition – his UNE colleague Dr Frances Alter – for initiating and developing what had become, he said, “one of the most important university-community events of the year”.
The Acting Director of NERAM, Dr Leigh Summers, said that the Museum’s staff and board of directors were “extraordinarily impressed” by the standard of the works in the exhibition. Young people’s art work “cheers” gallery directors and curators, she said, by reassuring them that “art really does exist”, and that its future is in good hands.
“If only I could paint like that!” said the artist Jonathon Larsen in his comments on the winning entry in the Infants category of the competition: “Playing Soccer” by Brooke Riggal, who is in Kindergarten at Martins Gully Public School. “I love the way Brooke uses oil pastel and watercolours to produce a vibrant action painting,” said Mr Larsen, who was the guest judge for this year’s competition.
Second place in the Infants category went to Riley Hayne, who is in Year 2 at Nemingha Public School, for a pencil drawing of Tamworth Post Office. “This is an inspired drawing of a local icon,” Mr Larsen said. “David Hockney’s efforts to distort perspective seem contrived in comparison. The drawing by Riley has an honesty and an immediacy not yet tainted by such artistic follies.”
Daniel Bodey from Wollongong won the Primary category with a pencil drawing of a horse’s head that Mr Larsen said was “a very expressive and confident drawing that would stand on its own anywhere”. Daniel is in Year 5 at Mount St Thomas Public School.
Maddison Boxsell (Year 3, St Joseph’s Catholic School, Uralla) was second in the Primary category. Junior Secondary: Jessica Graham (Year 8, Duval High School, Armidale) 1st; Brad Burton (Year 8, Armidale High School) 2nd. Senior Secondary: Anna Bruce (Year 11, NEGS, Armidale) 1st; Annabelle Russ (Year 10, PLC Armidale) 2nd. The “People’s Choice” prize went to Tara Riley, a Year 11 student at Armidale High School, and the “NERAM Director’s Choice” prize (awarded for the first time this year) went to Sophie Corbett, who is in Year 1 at Nemingha Public School.
The UNESAP competition (and associated “Let’s Hang It!” exhibition) is sponsored by UNE’s Faculty of The Professions, NERAM, and the art supply company S&S Creativity Unlimited. Professor Victor Minichiello, UNE Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of The Professions, said that it had been established in 2004 to support the teaching of visual arts in schools throughout regional NSW. “It’s clear there is a real depth of talent out there,” Professor Minichiello said after viewing the exhibition that will continue at NERAM until the 27th of June.
THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here, showing Tara Riley with her prize-winning work “Stay on Track”, expands to include Dr Frances Alter.