The Border Art Prize is a biennial prize which has been steadily growing in numbers since its inception in 2000. In 2018 there were 381 artworks displayed across two venues (Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre and M|Arts Precinct in Murwillumbah).
This year after the Prize opened for entries, the gallery had to close to the public as a precautionary measure to protect the community from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since then staff at the gallery have been working hard to develop online strategies in an effort to support artists whose exhibitions are presently on the walls of Tweed Regional Gallery and Gallery DownTown. The Border Art Prize 2020 was also be affected by COVID-19.
The Tweed Regional Gallery is resolute in their desire to offer regional artists a platform to show their artwork and celebrate their strength in adversity so the 2020 event is going ahead as an online exhibition.
The exhibition will showcase almost 400 works
Acting Public Programs Curator Meredith Cusack says that remarkably, the exhibition will showcase almost 400 (392) works digitally. ‘We are blown away by this incredible response from the community, and we have received so much positive feedback from artists who are thrilled that the exhibition is going ahead, although in a different format.
Gallery Director Susi Muddiman said that like many galleries and museums around the world, the Tweed Regional Gallery have had to adapt quickly to move exhibitions, collections and programs online. ‘Despite so many art prizes being postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19, the gallery was keen to move forward with the Border Art Prize online to support the artists of our region.
‘At the time of the Gallery’s closure in mid-March, the Prize was already open for entries, but no artworks had been physically received. Fortunately, we were able to adapt our process and request images from entrants, with all artworks showcased in an online catalogue.
Prize attracts a diverse range of artist
Ms Muddiman said that the Border Art Prize attracts a diverse range of artists, from established to those who have never exhibited before. ‘For some artists, a challenge has been to photograph their artwork, and for others even to send the image to us has been as challenge – so the Gallery has had to provide some guidance over the phone or via email. We have viewed this as an opportunity for professional development and the art community really rose to the challenge, showing a lot of resilience – and even humour – when it came to meeting the challenges.
Ms Muddiman said that for some artists, technology can actually make life easier. ‘The entry process was completely online and was quite straight forward. It also makes it easier to not have to physically deliver their artwork to the Gallery.
Having the exhibition online also opens it up to a wider audience. ‘We would normally still have a lot of interstate and international visitors at this time of year so accessing the exhibition online is obviously of great benefit. It feels good to know there are some benefits to the process.
A snapshot of the artists of the region
The strength of the Border Art Prize is that is a snapshot of the artists of the region – hobby artists, emerging artists, professional artists, ranging in age from 14 to 84. Ms Muddiman says she has been really impressed with the standard of work across the board. The 2020 Guest Judge Niomi Sands has a very difficult task ahead of her.
Ms Muddiman said that though the Prize itself has no theme, there are a number of threads that have emerged. ‘Reflecting on the current times, obviously there is a recurring theme in response to COVID-19 and physical distancing, as well as some reflections on the devastating fires that the region experience in November last year.
During social isolation artists are using subjects that are readily available
‘Also, during this time of social isolation, artists are using the subjects that are readily available to them – so you will see quite a few self-portraits and still lifes.
The Prize has attracted a lot of very talented artists from the region – it’s a great way to get to know who is out there making art.
More than that, this exhibition is such a celebration of art making and of community at a time when we have been physically isolated from one another, and the future of the arts, like so many industries, is facing uncertainty.
Ms Muddiman says the Prize as an online exhibition is a reminder that the value of art is not just in the presentation of the artwork, but also in the process of making. ‘Artists who have entered have invested their time and their passion into these artworks, and we are lucky enough to have a platform to share them with others.
Virtual opening on May 9
‘We are have had this in mind when preparing for the official virtual opening on Saturday 9 May.
Artists are invited to stay connected to the gallery and their friends on social media as we hear from community members who would normally help us celebrate this event, including Aunty Deidre who will welcome us to country; local musician Peter Koro; Director Sustainable Communities and Environment Tracey Stinson; Gallery Director Susi Muddiman OAM; and 2020 Guest Judge Niomi Sands, Director Grafton Regional Gallery.
The virtual opening and announcement of winners by 2020 Guest Judge Niomi Sands, Director, Grafton Regional Gallery on Saturday 9 May from 5pm.
With almost 400 entries this year, the online event will be a celebration of the range of creative talent across our region.
The online catalogue will be available on the Gallery website from Friday 8 May.
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