Call for entrants to new Melbourne art prize

Victoria University in Melbourne’s west is celebrating its 100th birthday, but artists are getting the gifts with the announcement of the inaugural $10,000 Footscray Art Prize.
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The strong support of street artists in Melbourne’s west continues with the $5000 Street Art Prize component of the inaugural Footscray Art Prize.

Additional categories include the $5000 Street Art Prize, $1500 Tertiary Art Prize as well as $500 each for Young Artists Prizes for entrants 13-18 years and under 12 years, totalling $17,500 in prizes. The competition is being introduced to celebrate the rich cultural diversity of Melbourne’s west and its place as a thriving artistic hub, says Kerry O’Neill, Program Manager Footscray University Town.

‘The Footscray Art Prize is a legacy of the centenary of Victoria University, which began as Footscray Technical School, but also acknowledges the creative hub that Footscray has become over the last number of years,’ she told ArtsHub.

‘We want to create opportunities for artists, both local and beyond, to foster Footscray’s creative industries and its culturally rich community.’

Footscray is the gateway to Melbourne’s western suburbs, which have traditionally been more working class – they have housed the shipping docks, refineries and manufacturing industries for several generations. It’s also been an area with consistent immigration that O’Neill says has shaped its artistic diversity.

‘I think for some time it has been attractive to a variety of artists because it has been an affordable area,’ she said. ‘It’s an area that has a rich industrial working class heritage and a lot of manufacturing. It’s an area that has attracted migrants from Europe during the post-war period and more recently Vietnamese and African communities who have made their home here.

‘For the arts sector this has brought a unique richness in terms of cultural expression, and along with the area’s affordability has meant Footscray is a place where artists are able to set up studios and practice in ways they may not have been able to in other parts of Melbourne.’

The Footscray Art Prize is a co-collaboration involving the Footscray Community Arts Centre which will host an exhibition of main prize entrants.

A unique collaboration between Victoria University, Maribyrnong City Council, Footscray Community Arts Centre and Rotary Club of Footscray, the Footscray Art Prize also forms part of the Footscray University Town initiative, a partnership between the Council and VU to revitalise Footscray as a vibrant creative centre.

The Art Prize is open to all Australian artists, although the younger categories are much more targeted at locals.

‘We are keen to set the bar high in terms of establishing a prize that attracts interest from across Australia and also offers opportunities for local artists,’ O’Neill said.

‘It is a contemporary art prize that reflects the intention of the partners to be inclusive, with a range of categories that artists can submit in.’

She said the Rotary Club is very keen to support younger artists and the tertiary category reflects Victoria University’s focus on their creative industries courses. Footscray Community Arts Centre plays an important role in fostering artistic expression in Melbourne’s west and will host the Prize’s finalists. The street art category is reflective of the support Maribyrnong Council gives to street artists through its annual graffiti prevention program, StreetWORKS!, with four sites in central Footscray designated to present the shortlisted street art works.

The judges are Jason Smith from Geelong Gallery, Richard Ennis from Incinerator Gallery, Beverly Knight from Alcaston Gallery and artist Reko Rennie. Simon Spain, artist and former creative producer of ArtPlay, will judge the prizes for young artists.

Street artists will be able to pitch ideas for work on one of four properties in Footscray. 

O’Neill said it was important to have high-calibre judges to attract quality artists.

‘They have a reputation and recognition in their various fields and that’s important to us – we want anyone who submits to feel their work is being assessed by experienced judges.’

The judges will determine the $10,000 prize for the best entry overall as well as the tertiary and street art prizes.

The exhibition of finalists and winners will be held at various spaces including Footscray Community Arts Centre (Main Prize), VU at MetroWest (Tertiary Prize), and the Bluestone Church Arts Space (Young Artist Prizes). There will also be a walking tour to view the street art pieces.

All entries will be accepted from 2 December 2016 until 3 March 2017 with the winners announced on 25 May 2017.  

Visit the Footscray Art Prize website for more details and entry information.

Cathy Anderson
About the Author
Cathy Anderson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist and the co-founder of digital content creation agency Ginger Brown.