On Tuesday 8 May, an excited audience of students, friends, families and art enthusiasts packed ADspace as philanthropist Jenny Birt announced the winner of the 2018 Jenny Birt Award, along with three highly commended students. The prestigious painting prize has been running for more than 20 years, and is accompanied each year by an exhibition showcasing work by all of the finalists.
Open to current undergraduate students at UNSW Art & Design, the Jenny Birt Award was launched in 1995 by the U Committee (for 'University'), and is the longest running and most coveted award for painting within the UNSW Art & Design academic calendar. It is just one of the many ways in which Jenny Birt has been encouraging and supporting young artists for years.
This year, the 13 finalists underscored the commitment UNSW Art & Design has to diversity, and highlighted how initiatives such as this continue to reveal and nurture the strong and highly talented Indigenous community on campus, with three outstanding Indigenous students amongst the finalists. Lecturers and artists Fernando Do Campo and Rochelle Haley worked closely with the students to realise works that push the boundaries of what constitutes contemporary painting.
Esteemed UNSW Art & Design alumni contemporray artist Tom Polo was invited to help with the judging and he joined a panel including Fernando Do Campo and the new UNSW Galleries director Jose Da Silva. The judges found the finalists work was of such high quality that it required lengthy deliberation before finally identitfying three highly commended students – the maximum allowed. Ultimately, it was Harrison Witsey who took home the top spot and a $3,000 award.
The last day to catch the Jenny Birt Award exhibition is this Saturday, 19 May 2018, at ADspace in E Block of our UNSW Art & Design campus, from 11am to 4pm.