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Time we got rid of our $25,000 art award cultural cringe

Having noticed that entries are now open to this year’s Fisher’s Ghost art award, I couldn’t help wondering whether it’s right that it’s open to everybody in Australia.

Now in its 57th year, the open prize, the big one, is worth $25,000.

Two points here: firstly $25,000 is not peanuts and, secondly, this is ratepayers’ money we’re talking about.

Actually, there’s a third point: I cannot recall the last time a local artist won the open prize.

On the other hand, as the blurb on the art centre’s website boasts: “In the past the Open Award has been awarded to some of Australia’s most respected contemporary artists including Elisabeth Cummings, Khaled Sabsabi, Justene Williams, David Bromley, Marion Borgelt, Raquel Ormella, Philip Wolfhagen, Tina Havelock Stevens and most recently Brian Fuata.’’

So I guess my point is, why does Campbelltown have to propagate the arts across our entire country?

And, on the other hand, shouldn’t the prize money so generously provided by the hard working ratepayers of Campbelltown be used to reward and encourage artists from Campbelltown?

Where does it say that one local area has to promote something nationally?

I believe it’s time we reviewed our local art prize and its eligibility criteria to sharply focus on boosting our own artists.

Apart from anything else, every year the winning entry says nothing about our town, and I would have thought that would be the aim of a local art prize, especially one as generous as this one.

The 2017 winning entry

Our art prize should be aiming to encourage local artists tell local stories through their paintings or sculptures or whatever medium they enjoy.

In other words, he who pays the piper should call the tune.

Several local artists have told me they do not bother with the Campbelltown arts centre anymore because they don’t feel it is interested in them or other local artists.

To my way of thinking, the current art award system implies a cultural cringe, the idea that local artists are inferior to those from outside the area – which of course is rubbish.

Replacing it with one for just local artists will not just keep the prize money locally – it will also boost interest in the arts and more people visiting our arts centre to check out exhibitions that mean something to them.

Well, I’m a ratepayer too, and given a chance I would vote to restrict our annual art award to local artists only.

You know it makes sense.

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