YOU couldn’t wipe the smile off Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre manager Brad Franks’ face on Saturday night.
Not only did the 42nd Muswellbrook Art Prize exhibition boast high-calibre works, but a big crowd converged on the gallery to attend the official opening.
The major award, and $20,000 purse, went to Margaret Loy Pula for Anatye – Bush Potato while Michele Heibel (Bush Telegraph) and Lucy Vader (The Sky and the Grass and the Sheep) were both highly commended by adjudicator Dr Leigh Summers.
Claire Martin collected $5000 in winning section B, for a work on paper of any subject in any medium, with Statues and monuments, Anne Marie Louise d’Orelans.
Robert Fenton (After Heysen) and Nigel Killalea (Silver Wattle) also received special mention in this category.
Newcastle’s Vicki Hamilton pocketed $5000 too with Hanging by a Thread impressing the judges in section C, for a ceramic work at any subject.
Derek Thompson (Ngintaka Kutjara) and Silvana Wirepa (Slain) were highly commended.
“We had 229 entries across the three sections, which is up on the previous year,” a beaming Mr Franks told the Chronicle.
“That was then culled to 82 finalists – with some from Muswellbrook, Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia.
“I was very happy with the response, quality and number-wise.
“We only host the award every two years now and I think that certainly helps.
“I’d like to thank the Art Prize Selection Panel – Sandra McMahon and Pam Brown – for their time and effort in selecting the finalists; and adjudicator Dr Leigh Summers, who is also a director of the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery.
“We also gratefully acknowledge the generous support of the Muswellbrook Shire Council and especially the Bengalla Mining Company, not only for its sponsorship of the Muswellbrook Art Prize but also for its ongoing commitment over the past 19 years.”
Muswellbrook Shire mayor Martin Rush praised the major sponsor too.
“Bengalla’s involvement is something that is lasting – it’s an investment into our community,” he said.
“Congratulations should also go to the gallery staff, Dr [Leigh] Summers and the artists.
“We’d like to make the Muswellbrook Art Prize bigger and bigger in future years.”
The exhibition is open until May 12.