The Hutchins Art Prize
In 1996 a senior Art teacher at The Hutchins School suggested that the school offer a national art award for professional and emerging artists. The recommendation was enthusiastically endorsed and a small group of parents, The Hutchins Foundation members and Art teachers formed the Hutchins Art Committee.
The following objectives were identified as central in the development of the art prize:
- To promote contemporary art and artists to Hutchins students and strongly demonstrate that art was valued equally alongside sporting and academic success.
- To promote the School nationally and internationally.
- To increase student and community engagement with art through the acquisition of contemporary artwork by leading artists and to then exhibit that work in classrooms, corridors and staff offices.
- To build a Hutchins Foundation Collection as an asset for the School.
- To hold an art prize in a busy city location to raise awareness of the Schools activities within the local community.
The committee members consulted with leading Australian art critics, academics and practitioners. Well-known critic and curator Jonah Jones was instrumental in the initial phases of setting up the art prize criteria and structure. His input was invaluable and aided in establishing the national stature of the event and attracting high profile judges.
The first Hutchins Art Prize was held in 1997 and drew entries from across Australia and the Pacific Rim. On offer was $5,000 in first prize money for ‘works on paper’. Sixty works were chosen for exhibition at Salamanca Place in Hobart, with Australian artist Rod Stennard winning the inaugural Hutchins Art Prize purse for his work Laseman’s Sleep. The Governor of Tasmania has been Patron of the event since inception and has attended the Gala Opening to deliver a keynote address and present the prizes.
The Hutchins Art Prize continued for the next eight years as an annual award for works on paper. Approximately 350 entries were received each year, with sixty finalists invited to show their work in Hobart. The finalists’ exhibition acquired a reputation for excellence and attracted large numbers, consequently increasing the standing of the School. An art prize co-ordinated by an independent school was unique in the art prize calendar at that time. It is still remarkable today.
In 2006 a decision was made to increase the first prize purse to $10,000 and change to a biennial event. The result was that the Hutchins Art Prize became one of the nation’s most lucrative and significant art prizes for work on paper. From 1997-2013 The Hutchins Foundation and The Hutchins School allocated additional funds to acquire several additional works each year from the finalists' exhibition works. The Hutchins Art Prize remained an attractive proposition for artists working with paper, increasing in prize money to $15,000 in 2009 and $20,000 in 2015.
The Hutchins Art Prize continues to be proudly supported by The Hutchins Foundation and The Hutchins School. Since inauguration corporate partners have also contributed generously to the art prize through sponsorship and in-kind support. The administration of the Hutchins Art Prize owes much to the tireless group of voluntary art lovers that comprise the Hutchins Art Committee. Assisted by the Art Curator, they have overseen the evolution of the Hutchins Art Prize in 1997 into a significant Australian art award.