Adelaide-based artist Deidre But-Husaim entered a painting into the “Churchie“. With $10k prize money it’s an attractive purse… but certain policies of the exhibition organisers prompted the artist to take a stand against discrimination and make her feelings public…
What’s the Churchie?
Deidre But-Husaim: The Churchie National Emerging Art Exhibition is an art competition/prize/fundraiser that is held by the Anglican Church Grammar School. As their website explains: “The churchie national emerging art exhibition, now in its 21st year, offers an inspiring glimpse into the future of the Australian art scene. It provides a forum for artists to compete for a prize across four categories; paintings, works on paper, object-based sculpture and new technologies. Approximately 100 finalists from all Australian states and territories will be pre-selected with the overall winner rewarded with a $10,000 cash prize sponsored by Brand & Slater Architects.”
Deidre But_Husaim, Beauty Marks (Boy Boy), 2008.
Oil on linen, 121x101cm
And why did you decide to enter it?
DB-H: I entered because, like a lot of artists on unknown mailing lists, I receive requests to enter art prizes. I don’t usually enter because I think the best support that an artist can receive is for their work to be purchased either by individuals or for collections, personally I don’t like the prescriptive criteria of art prizes. This time there was no criteria for the work and I had a painting that had just come down from an exhibition … and with impending overseas travel looming that art prize would have solved a lot of financial problems for me … the rest is history.
What were the events that led you to reconsider your entry into the prize?
DB-H: I discovered that the Anglican Church Grammar School that runs The Churchie had decided not to allow final year students to bring their same sex-partner to their formal. When I entered I was not aware of the schools decision regarding this matter, if I had known of this decision at the time I would not have entered.
Why did you decide to pull your work from the competition?
DB-H: I will not be involved in fund raising for a school whose decisions regarding gay pupils are contrary to my beliefs. School can be a judgmental place at the best of times. We all need to put an end to discrimination and homophobia.
What was the reaction when you withdrew?
DB-H: The Churchie [organisers] replied that they were ‘saddened’ but ‘respected my right to do so’. Regarding the wider community I have received nothing but thanks and positive comments for standing up for my beliefs.
Will withdrawing from the prize have any effect on the policies of the school?
DB-H: Unfortunately, probably not. I don’’t know if other artists selected are aware of or care about the policies of the school or its connection to The Churchie.
Do you think more artists should take an ethical stand in relation to the sorts of exhibitions they’re willing to enter?
DB-H: I think what artists do regarding their own ethics is up to them. Unfortunately there is not enough funding support to go around for each and everyone and art prizes can be tempting when you’’re struggling financially. Also an ‘art prize’ on your CV can make a difference to some people … galleries sometimes encourage participation.