You don’t have to shout to be heard: this regional art prize speaks volumes

The Basil Sellers Art Prize has shaped a community for nearly 20 years; now it is shaping a nation. The $20,000 prize is currently calling for entries.
You don’t have to shout to be heard: this regional art prize speaks volumes

2018 Basil Sellers Art Prize winner, Anh Nguyen, Jamboree Morning (detail). Image courtesy the artist.

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Gina Fairley

Friday 1 May, 2020

The last time the Basil Sellers Art Prize was presented it shifted its focus dramatically. Now, the prize – which had a tight regional focus in the past – is getting comfortable with its new parameters, which includes visual artists from across NSW and the ACT.

Indira Carmichael, Coordinator Creative Arts Development at Eurobodalla Shire Council which hosts the Prize, told ArtsHub: ‘We are keen to get entries from all around the state and territory, not just the large centres. It's easy to think of the regions as the 'poor cousins'. It is so important to keep regional artists as part of the national conversation – we are part of a national community after all.’

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She continued: ‘Being regional, it is hard for artists to get a look in, and we are proud that we support regional arts. It’s too easy for loud voices to be heard, and that happens when those voices are together en masse, as with urban spaces. Some of quieter voices are saying important things, and I think we are learning this message in COVID-19, and in particular, through the Basil Sellers Art Prize.’

Carmichael believes that one of the positive outcomes of COVID-19 is that it has created a more level playing field.

‘We’ve now discovered a new way of working, and that we can function and do business and not have to be in same room, in the traditional sense. It means that the regions may not be viewed as all that distant moving forward.’

Carmichael said the biennial prize returns at a time when the livelihood of many artists is up in the air.

‘The prize is all about supporting artists, as well as a Shire that has faced a great deal of trauma recently, and is trying to put itself back together,’ she said. ‘Eurobodalla was the hardest hit Shire in the recent bushfires and now COVID-19.

‘I can’t tell you what an event like our prize does for a community in in recovery; it’s an extraordinary ripple effect into the community, helping to rebuild connections.'

The finalists’ exhibition will be presented at The Basil Sellers Exhibition Centre in October, the first purpose-built art space in the 3500 square kilometre shire along NSW’s far South Coast. The new gallery opened in February 2019 and was supported by Sydney collector and patron of the prize, Basil Sellers AM.  

‘Basil thinks really big, and we wanted to have this quirky, fun thing happening down here, and we welcome artists to be part of that,’ Carmichael explained.

IS THE BASIL SELLERS ART PRIZE FOR YOU?

The $20,000 Basil Sellers Art Prize is open for entries to NSW and ACT artists working in a two-dimensional medium (excluding photography and digital media). It is not thematic.

Carmichael advises: ‘I encourage people to have a good look at the prize terms and conditions – spend some time on our website and really think about the right submission.’

She described the Prize as one that ‘doesn’t hold artists to impossible standards,’ and said it is open to a broad approach.

Three prizes are awarded: the major prize of $20,000; the $5,000 Eurobodalla Prize to an artist from the Shire, and a $500 People's Choice Award. Entries are now open.

Key dates for 2020 prize:

Entries Close: Friday, 5 June

Finalists announced: Friday, 3 July

Exhibition opening and announcement of winners: Friday, 9 October

Exhibition dates: Saturday 10 October – Monday 9 November.

Entries are now open for the Basil Sellers Art Prize 2020.

About the author

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW.

Twitter: @ginafairley
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