About the Muswellbrook Local Art Awards

The Muswellbrook Local Art Awards are an annual competition which offers local artists from Muswellbrook, Singleton, and Upper Hunter Shires the opportunity to show off the cream of their work from the past twelve months.

A total prize value of $6,000 is split over six disciplines. Each year a different guest adjudicator is invited to judge the entries received.

The Muswellbrook Local Art Awards has six prize categories:

  • Viola Bromley Painting Prize - incorporating the Hunter Valley Printing Encouragement Prize
  • Garry Philp Works on Paper - incorporating the Elks Enterprises Encouragement Prize
  • Local 3D Prize - incorporating the Max Watters Encouragement Prize
  • Local Photography Prize – incorporating the Hunter Valley Hydraulink Encouragement Prize
  • Local Aboriginal Art Prize – incorporating the Berry & French Pharmacy Encouragement Prize
  • Esther Bellis Youth Prize – incorporating the Framing Good Encouragement Prize

The Muswellbrook Local Art Awards are an annual event

Look out for announcements of this competition towards the end on August or early September each year. We recommend you subscribe to the Art Centre's Email newsletter, or follow us on Facebook for these announcements.

Viola Bromley Painting Prize

Viola Bromley 1979, photo by Roger Skinner.
Viola Bromley 1979, photo by Roger Skinner.

Viola Bromley was born in Sydney, NSW in 1915 and studied art under Desiderius Orban during the 1950’s. Her work is widely represented including a number of works in the Muswellbrook Shire Art Collection. She was an executive member of the inaugural committee of the Regional Galleries Association of NSW.

After settling in the Upper Hunter, Bromley was instrumental in establishing the Muswellbrook Open Art Prize, which commenced in 1958 and in developing the Muswellbrook Municipal Art Gallery and gaining it Regional Gallery status in 1976.

The Viola Bromley Encouragement Prize of the Local Painting Prize is a tribute to her memory and recognition of the importance of her contribution to the arts in the Upper Hunter.

Garry Philp Works on Paper

Garry Philp 1982 by Lou Fisher, rephotographed from Four Upper Hunter Artists, Muswellbrook Regional Art Gallery, 1982.
Garry Philp 1982 by Lou Fisher, rephotographed from
Four Upper Hunter Artists, Muswellbrook Regional Art Gallery, 1982.

Garry Philp was a Muswellbrook artist. He worked in watercolour, oils and acrylics as well as sketching in charcoal, pencil and other traditional art materials. He frequently exhibited in the Muswellbrook Regional Art Gallery as well as Cooks Hill Gallery, Newcastle and also volunteered his time on the Open Art Prize Committee. Garry was also instrumental in helping Rosanna Cameron establish herself in the role of the first director of the Muswellbrook Regional Art Gallery back in 1981.

The Four Upper Hunter Artists exhibition book from the exhibition at the Muswellbrook Regional Art Gallery in 1982, states “Garry Philp is a Muswellbrook artist and craftsman who’s own personal style has evolved from an interest in graphic design and travel. His work is precise, fine and expertly balanced. His art is based on perceptions of environment and refined to its simplest forms resulting in design like images”..

Local 3D Prize

Max Watters OAM, photo courtesy of Sensis.
Max Watters OAM, photo courtesy of Sensis.

Maxwell Joseph Watters was born in Muswellbrook in 1936 and began painting in the late 1950’s, his work being represented in every major collection around the country. A member of the prominent local family, Max was encouraged in collecting art by his brother Frank of the Watters Gallery in Sydney.

In 2004 he donated his collection of over 300 works to the Muswellbrook Shire. Locally though, Max is most well known for the art classes which he runs for people of all ages and skill in towns and rural halls across the Upper Hunter.

Local Photography Prize – incorporating the Hunter Valley Hydraulink Encouragement Prize

Members of the Muswellbrook and Districts Camera Club from left Julie-Anne Ellem, Kylie Bates, John Hodges, Stephanie Steele and Matt Lysaught.
Members of the Muswellbrook and Districts Camera Club
from left Julie-Anne Ellem, Kylie Bates, John Hodges,
Stephanie Steele and Matt Lysaught.

Drayton South's sponsorship is made possible by the Muswellbrook and Districts Camera Club. The Muswellbrook & Districts Camera Club was formally established in 1958 with a meeting in the Rotary Rooms of Muswellbrook of interested people including George Tasker, the club’s current patron, who still lives in town.

Membership is available to all people interested in enjoying their photography in an informal, relaxed format with a group of like-minded people. The club was formally constituted on June 13th 1958 to "further the study of photography as a science and art". The club has adopted the following as a definition of photography in the 1980’s “Any object or image made via the use of a lens and/or on light sensitised material”.

A vital part of the club’s participation in the cultural community of Muswellbrook is the ongoing mentoring of up and coming talented photographers from the local community; accordingly they take great pleasure from sponsoring an annual encouragement award.

Local Aboriginal Art Prize

The Reconciliation Mural in Simpson Park, Muswellbrook
The Reconciliation Mural in Simpson Park, Muswellbrook

Exhibitions showcasing Local Indigenous Artists’ works have long been a part of the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre’s annual programme. In 2014 the Local Aboriginal Art Prize became the 6th prize in the Muswellbrook Local Art Awards. The Traditional Owners of the land covered by the Muswellbrook Shire are the Wanaruah and the Kamilaroi peoples.
The Local Aboriginal Art Prize is sponsored by the Muswellbrook Shire Council who provide a range of resources that support Reconciliation in the community. The Muswellbrook Shire Council Aboriginal Reconciliation Committee was established in 1997. Some of the major achievements of the Committee have been the signing of the Document for reconciliation Statement of Principle; the development of Wannin Thanbarran - a history of Aboriginal and European Contact in the Muswellbrook and Upper Hunter Valley; the painting and installation of the Reconciliation Mural in Simpson Park; the hosting of the annual Aboriginal Flag Raising ceremony during Reconciliation Week and the development of local policies and protocols within Muswellbrook Shire Council.

Esther Bellis Youth Prize

Esther Bellis, photo by John Hodges.
Esther Bellis, photo by John Hodges.

Isabel Esther Bellis was a recognised sculptor whose particular emphasis was on Equine sculpture. As part of her Will, she left a bequest to the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre for a youth encouragement award. First awarded in 2008 this section of the Muswellbrook Local Art Awards has grown from strength to strength in the ensuing years. Esther’s strong commitment to the arts, particularly to sculpture and her will to encourage the younger generation, sees an exclusive annual prize for children from the local art community from ages 12 to 18.