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Central West Queensland since 1923
Central West Queensland

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25 August, 2020

Sense of place for Outback art

THE Outback Regional Gallery and Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton are calling on regional and national artists to enter this year’s John Villiers Outback Art Prize.

By Hamish Hart

The annual art competition continues to be a highly anticipated event on the outback town’s calendar, attracting entrants from across the nation to compete for $16,000 worth of prize money.

Waltzing Matilda Centre exhibition supervisor, Karen Stephens, said this year’s theme, “Outback: A Sense of Place”, aimed to inspire a diverse group of artwork and ages to compete for the major prize and gallery acquisition worth $10,000.

“Each year, it is exciting to see the diversity of the entries and the cross section of techniques and responses to our theme,” Ms Stephens said.

“Our prize celebrates the stories and places of this region and has changed and grown considerably since 1998.

“This year will be the first time in the history of the prize that emerging youth aged 15 to 26 are encouraged to enter, making it the only national prize for youth that operates from a remote location.

“While painting still dominates the award with portraiture and landscape, we’ve received some innovative sculptural works in recent years made from various materials.”

Winner of the 2020 John Villiers Outback Art Prize major award, Margaret Campbell from Mount Isa, won for her painting, Grandpa Huey’s Butcher Shop, Kynuna 1898 (pictured), which represented a local historical portrait of the town and its residents.

Victorian artist Kathy Ellem’s 2020 award winning piece, Hearts as Big as the Sky, depicted outback entertainers The Crack Up Sisters shooting a selfie. The brightly-coloured painting is being used to promote this year’s competition.

Ms Stephens said choosing winners like Margaret and Kathy was “a daunting process” for the judges each year, but believes everyone was a winner when they embraced their artistic side.

“The prize goes through two rounds and the final deliberation is undertaken upon seeing the finalist’s works before opening night,” Ms Stephens said.

“Quite a bit of debate occurs to determine the winner.”

The John Villiers Trust, an organisation dedicated to improving community engagement and partnerships in regional and remote Queensland, and Flying Arts Alliance (FAA), have become premier supporters of the event.

Because this has occurred, Ms Stephens believes the Outback Art Prize will encourage local youth to engage with one another during a time where social interaction is difficult.

“With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, our gallery has needed to create online platforms to keep our artists and their works visible,” Ms Stephens said. “Last year our online People’s Choice Voting attracted around 10,000 views across Australia.  

“Our major sponsor since 2012, the John Villiers Trust, has been committed to supporting people living in remote regions of Queensland, a legacy of the late John Villiers.

“The Trust’s driving focus is the wellbeing and development of children and youth in regional, rural and remote Queensland, with the goal of building stronger, more resilient and equitable communities to alleviate disadvantage.

“A free weekend workshop facilitated by FAA will take place in Winton during the coming school holidays.

“The workshop is a unique opportunity for youth aged 12 and up to find out all the insider tips on entering prizes and developing and applying ideas.

“Diversifying our prize will nurture the artistic talents of future generations and these voices are important.”

Entries for the John Villiers Outback Art Prize close January 8, 2021. For further details about the competition and attending the FAA workshop, contact

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