Victorian College of the Arts graduates share in the Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture 2020
Three Victorian College of the Arts graduates were among the winners at the coveted Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture 2020 announced yesterday. Lecturer in Visual Art Dr Laura Woodward (BFA Hons. 2005, MFA 2008, PhD 2014) and Isadora Vaughan (BFA Hons. 2013) received the Rural & Regional Development Award 2020, and Professional Development Award 2020 respectively.
Beth Arnold, who completed a Bachelor of Fine Art with Honours in 2005 and a Master of Fine Art (Research) in 2011, was one of six finalists, and co-winners, of this year's main prize. In a groundbreaking decision, Arnold and co-winners Mikala Dwyer, Emily Floyd, Nicholas Mangan, Kathy Temin and Field Theory will pool their winnings and make a significant contribution to a First Nations community organisation to acknowledge the absence of First Nations voices and culturally diverse representation in the 2020 Prize.
In an unprecedented move, the six finalists in this year's coveted Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture came together to collaborate and share the $60,000 prize pool. The magnanimous gesture of the co-winners comes at a time of change in what public art represents and in response to challenges faced by the arts sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2020 Melbourne Prize acknowledges that the ground on which we make and produce art has been continuously nurtured by more than 2000 generations of First Nations people, integrating life and art, creating song and performing dance. The annual Melbourne Prize, and this year’s panellists and artists, collectively acknowledge and pay respects to the Boonwurrung/Bunurong and Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, their Elders, past, present and emerging, on whose unceded lands we are honoured to advocate for the role of art within public life.
Reflecting a year like no other, the judging panel has welcomed the initiative of the 2020 finalists of the Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture who have acknowledged the absence of First Nations voices and culturally diverse representation in this year's Prize. In seeking to address this situation, and the critical role of equity, diversity and inclusion of the annual Melbourne Prize, they noted: “As artists we are accountable to our ethical positions, to the expectations of our communities and furthering the critical contexts that have nurtured our practices and disciplines over many years.”
Dr Simone Slee, artist and Acting Head of VCA Art was one of four panellists struck by the nuanced approach to urban sculpture in this year's finalists: "It has been an inspiring year to be a panellist on theMelbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture. Always led by artists, the Prize continues to redefine the possibilities of art within the public domain.
"From the first year in 2005, when OSW were awarded the prize for a propositional sculpture, this year’s prize recognises the fundamental role of the ground in which we make and produce art, has been nurtured for over two thousand generations of First Nations people. In acknowledging the absence of First Nations and diverse voices in the prize’s representation, the six finalists have addressed the ethical role of making public art in shaping ideas of place and justice.
"In response, the finalists made the inspired decision to share the prize equally and further to include a seventh recipient, a First Nations community organisation of their choice. This is a beautiful demonstration of the transformative power of sculpture in the social field."
Visual Artist Laura Woodward, recipient of the Rural & Regional Development Award, expressed her gratitude: "My heartfelt thanks goes to the Geoff and Helen Handbury Foundation for their generous support of the Rural & Regional Development Award. Although I spent many years in Melbourne, I grew up regionally and have recently relocated my family and studio back to Central Victoria. I see this award as an opportunity to build upon – and perhaps reframe – my practice in this regional context, and to develop connections and collaborations that I hope will contribute to and be of benefit to the vibrant creative community here."
The annual Melbourne Prize recognises the absence of self-identified First Nations applicants to the 2020 Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture. In response, and through discussion with the shortlisted artists, panellists, and community members, the Melbourne Prize has committed to a series of proactive measures to ensure greater diversity, access and inclusion across the Prize, its awards juries and the recruitment of applications in future.
Co-winner Beth Arnold was delighted by the collaborative result: "The opportunity to be part of a collective dialogue seeking to work towards change has been immensely valuable. It resulted in the prize being collaborative rather than competitive. I will carry this experience to further inform my artistic practice and future works and pay special thanks to the other finalist artists, The Melbourne Prize, Panel and Kutcha Edwards."
Now in its 16th year and being one of the most valuable arts prize of its kind in Australia, the annual Melbourne Prize operates in a three-year cycle, including the Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture (2020), the Melbourne Prize for Literature (2021) and the Melbourne Prize for Music (2022).
Since inception, the Prize has made available more than $1.8 million in prizes and awards, artist residencies, equipment grants and an annual public exhibition at Federation Square to Victorian writers, sculptors and musicians.