2016 Blake Prize

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The Blake Prize, one of Australia’ oldest art prizes, celebrates art of a religious or spiritual nature. The Prize is not necessarily about artefacts or iconography like the Crucifix or the Menorah, though such references are often involved. Moreover, it celebrates art which tackles the subject matter of spiritual life, ethics and themes such as life and death in a meaningful way.

The prize is open to all faiths and cultures and so it’s no surprise that it fits perfectly within the community that it now calls home, the dynamic and fast-growing cultural hub of Liverpool in Sydney’s South West.

I was fortunate to have the privilege of representing the NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for the Arts, Troy Grant at the exhibition and celebration of the Blake Prize at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre (CPAC) on Friday the 12th of February. I was joined by Councillor Ned Mannoun, Mayor of Liverpool City Council, as well as the Director of CPAC, Ms Kiersten Fishburn.

The judges for this year’s prize were the Reverend Tim Costello, AO, Professor Amanda Lawson, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, University of Wollongong and Leanne Tobin, Winner of the 2011 Parliament of NSW Aboriginal Art Prize. Both Professor Lawson and Ms Tobin were on hand for the announcement of the winners as were the 80 finalists in the prize.

There was great serendipity in my being there on the night. Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre (CPAC) was a highlight in my time working for the Mayor of Liverpool as his advisor from 2012-2014. I congratulate Kiersten and Council for having the foresight to provide a permanent home for a prize which is highly respected in the international arts community.

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CPAC is a key cultural hub in NSW and a leader in western Sydney for the Arts. Being located in Liverpool puts it at the heart of one of the most diverse communities in Australia. It also places it in the fastest growing urban region in Australia.

Liverpool is arguably New South Wales’ and perhaps Australia’s leading example of successful, modern multiculturalism. Liverpool as the capital of the great South West, demonstrates how many cultures from different regions of the world, can co-exist in one place, not only in harmony but gaining strength from each other’s identities. The Blake art prize fits so well with Liverpool.  The prize, like the community, is dedicated to spirituality but more importantly to religious diversity and acceptance. 

This has not happened by accident. I commend the political leadership of Liverpool Council both today and in the past for their strident support of multiculturalism. I call on all parties on Council to maintain that outstanding record into the future and set aside any petty political point scoring for the greater good and continued positive reputation of the City of Liverpool.

Growing up in Penrith, it was difficult to get access to quality arts institutions, and I’m sure that some would say it’s harder today. I commend Liverpool Council for having a long term vision for CPAC as a cultural centre for its thriving community. It is certainly deserving of the increased funding and certainty that the Baird Government has given it in recent times.