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On Wednesday night hundreds of people from the Yarra Valley gathered in the Ballroom at the RACV Club in Healesville for the presentation of the Not the Archies awards.  This is one of the very best community arts events I’ve ever seen.  Cleverly arranged to coincide with the 2011 Archibald Prize exhibition at Tarrawarra Museum of Art, it involved the whole community, from children to adults of all ages.  Experienced and not so experienced artists were welcomed to enter with a portrait of a Yarra Valley local. All of the 218 entries are currently being displayed in shop windows and venues in Yarra Glen and Healesville. Maudie Palmer, director of Tarrawarra Museum of Art and Peter Wegner (finalist in this years Archibald) judged it.  Maudie (above) made the final presentations. What a buzz!

I doubt that there’s a person living in the Yarra Valley who is not aware of it in some way. Locals were encouraged to vote for the Reader’s Choice through the local Leader newspaper. For the purposes of this event, the Archibald’s Packers Award was turned into the local Traders Award.  We can only imagine the conversations that were had along the shopping strips of the Yarra Valley towns, as traders greeted one another on the streets and compared notes. Shop keepers are enjoying the interest shown by visitors to the Yarra Valley, as they wander along the ‘footpath galleries’ on their way to lunch. 

Many of the portraits were accompanied by a story about the sitter which added to the heartwarming effect. Husbands, wives, neighbours and friends were painted with passion and skill. But the story closest to my heart was that of the Under 18 Award winner Siena Chisholm.  That’s her painting above.  It’s a painting of her mother. When asked why she painted her mother, she said with the delightful simplicity of a child, “Because she’s my Mum”. She’s six years old! Notice the use of shading on the face, the capture of the nose and mouth and the eyes, framed by the glasses. Then of course, there’s the use of colour, the canvas vibrates with it. Such a sophisticated painting for one so young. Not surprisingly, Siena has the devoted support and encouragement of her mother, Ali Griffin and her father Billy Chisholm.  Ali is an artist in her own right and together with her partner Billy, they run the Artist’s Lounge and Three Stories Artspace.  This little blogger is going to keep a watchful eye on the progress of the whole family.

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Siena Chisholm.  Photographer Kerry Cross©

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Siena Chisholm and mother Ali Griffin.

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Jessie Gilbert-Hunt’s portrait  “Dad”. Highly Commended.

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Portrait by Ian Whitford, Highly Commended

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Portrait by Eliza Owen, Highly Commended.

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Portrait by James (Billanook).  Highly Commended.

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Leader Reader’s Award winner Savannah Laird.

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Barry O’Brien’s portrait of Jimmy Zitzlaff took out the Trader’s Award.

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Sally Felmingham won the Not the Archies Over 18 Award with this portrait of Bonnie Halligan.

I understand that the Archibald will be coming to TWMA next year.  I so hope that Not the Archies will accompany it once again.