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Durham Alumnus Supports Student Art Prize into the Future

The Student Art Prize 2021/22 has officially launched, with a special Durham alumnus kindly pledging their support for at least the next 10 years.

The Student Art Prize celebrates talent from across the student body and encourages participation from students of all academic disciplines. The first Student Art Prize took place in 2019/20 with the theme of ‘Diversity’ and the 2020/21 Prize showcased artworks on the theme of ‘Heroism’. The theme of the 2021/22 Student Art Prize will be ‘Hidden’, with artists invited to use their work to explore their interpretation of the theme.

This year, we are celebrating the University’s partnership with the founding donor of the prize Richard Roberts, an alumnus of the University who helped develop the competition and has kindly offered to fund it into the future.

Richard says:

“I was a student here from 1976 to 1979 and then three years ago moved back to live permanently in Durham. Very quickly I noticed a number of changes in student life compared to 40 years ago. The most striking change it seemed to me was that students now seem to be under much greater stress and pressure. Student mental health is of real concern to me, as the experience of being at university for three years should be a time to enjoy both academic work and wider student experiences – be that sport, drama, music or just the environment of Durham, and the wider North East.

Throughout my career as a lawyer, I have found great solace in looking at art, be it paintings, photographs or sculpture. Art can trigger memories, spark imagination, challenge beliefs and perceptions, but most of all make us stop and look.

I hope that over the years, the Student Art Prize can do much to encourage students to look at art in the same way as they would look at sport or drama or music – a rewarding contrast from the everyday of academic study. Be the student an artist or art viewer, there is much to be thankful in an environment that celebrates art in all its forms.”

The competition will be supported by an ‘Art School’ programme of talks, workshops and artist workshops, and will culminate in an exhibition of shortlisted entries, with prize winners being announced at a special event on 14th June 2022. This year, thanks to the generosity of other Durham alumni, we are able to offer a separate prize category for photography. Each category will have awards for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. There will also be an overall winner of the Student Art Prize, receiving the ‘Richard Roberts Prize’ and a winner of a public People’s vote. Winners are awarded a cash prize, with some works being acquired by the University Art Collection and put on display to be enjoyed by others.

Previous winners of the Student Art Prize have gone on to achieve great success. Last year’s People’s Vote winner, Shoun Obana, has had their painting of John Hume acquired by a museum in Derry, with ambitions for it to be realised as a mural in Belfast. A print of the artwork was also acquired for the Durham University collection. Meanwhile, Anna Horwich, who won 2nd place in the 2020 Art Prize, was commissioned to paint the official portrait of outgoing Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge last year.

Richard says:

“I am also pleased that following last year's competition a number of individual Colleges have now embraced their own internal art competitions. I was particularly pleased to be invited to judge the St John’s College ‘Chronicling Covid’ competition which will be a permanent addition to the College archives. I am also very impressed with the ‘Women of Castle’ project as an example of how art will celebrate how a traditionally male environment has, over the last 30 years, adapted to the presence of women.”

Richard has pledged to support the Student Art Prize for at least the next 10 years, ensuring that it will become a highlight of the University’s cultural calendar and will support new and aspiring artists within our student community into the future.

Find out more

Image credits:

Banner left: Highly Commended and People’s Vote (Heroism) - Shoun Obana, John Hume, Derry, 21st April 1969 (2021), digital print, Durham University Collection, image courtesy of the artist.

Banner middle: Third Place Prize Winner (Diversity) - Anna Horwich, Wisdom of Age (2020), oil and gouache on canvas, image courtesy of the artist.

Banner right: Richard Roberts, the Durham alumnus who has pledged to support the Student Art Prize for at least the next 10 years, with his Dunelmensis Award.