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  • Nov 13, 2020

Melbourne Sculpture Prize Finalists Share Award and Donate to First Nations

On November 11, the six finalists and jury panelists of the Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture released a joint statement announcing that the finalists, as per their request, will share the 2020 prize and cash award of AUD 60,000 (USD 43,610) in an act of solidarity for the challenging year. The finalists will also donate an unspecified, equal amount to a First Nation community organization to address the lack of cultural diversity at this year’s award. 

After the finalist shortlist was revealed on September 2, one of the finalists, Emily Floyd, shared with the Sydney Morning Herald how the group, which also includes Beth Arnold, Mikala Dwyer, Nicholas Mangan, Kathy Temin, and the art collective Field Theory, reflected on the absence of First Nation voices in the prize since its inauguration in 2005, especially in a year "where we’ve seen a complete re-questioning of colonial monuments.”

In the joint statement, which pays respects to the Boonwurrung/Bunurong and Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation and acknowledge the lack of diverse representation in the 2020 Prize, the group announced a series of measures created in discussions between the finalists and community members to address this issue. These include the appointment of MuttiMutti singer Kutcha Edwards, winner of the 2016 Melbourne Prize for Music, as the prize’s cultural advisor; the establishment of an equity- and inclusion-focused advisory group, with members yet to be confirmed; and the inclusion of First Nation and other culturally diverse members in future judging panels. 

The 2020 jury panel comprised Max Delany, artistic director and CEO of Melbourne’s Australian Centre for Contemporary Art; Maria Sierra, professor at the University of New South Wales Sydney; Simone Slee, head of sculpture and spatial practice at the University of Melbourne; and Pip Wallis, curator at the National Gallery of Victoria.

The Professional Development Award was conferred to sculptor Isadora Vaughan who received AUD 10,000 (USD 7,268) and a Qantas AUD 2,000 (USD 1,453) voucher. Kinetic sculptor Laura Woodward was conferred the Rural & Regional Development Award, earning AUD 40,000 (USD 29,074) to develop her practice in rural and regional Victoria. 

The sculpture prize is funded by the Melbourne Prize Trust, which was established in 2004 to provide financial and professional opportunities for Victorian artists and operates prizes for Urban Sculpture, literature, and music on a rotating three-year cycle.

Ariana Heffner is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

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