Students make it better with Operation Art

Some of the state's best student artwork will feature in a touring exhibition before eventually finding a home at The Children's Hospital.

Image: Alex Dawson from Figtree High School.

From Paris to Parramatta, the Art Gallery of NSW has displayed some of the world’s most prestigious artworks. And now, 50 school students from across the state can add their names to the list as part of the 2021 Operation Art Touring Exhibition.

Operation Art is an initiative of The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in association with the Department of Education and the Art Gallery of NSW, which encourages NSW school students from Kindergarten to Year 10 to create artworks for sick kids in hospital.

More than 700 artworks were entered from 211 NSW schools into last year’s Operation Art program. The carefully selected 50 finalists were revealed to the public in September and will now commence a year-round tour of regional art galleries in NSW before becoming part of the permanent art collection at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

The Operation Art Touring Exhibition was officially opened at the Art Gallery of NSW on Wednesday, by popular children’s author and illustrator, Mick Elliott.

Heidi Windeisen, Operation Art Project Officer from the NSW Department of Education, said the exhibition is not only a chance to showcase the array of talent in NSW schools but also to shine a light on how art can be transformative for children in difficult times.

“This exhibition shows students that their contribution to the arts is equally as important as the artwork of world-renowned artists. Art is for everyone,” she said.

“Operation Art gives students a real purpose for their artmaking. It shows them how art can help to foster a healing environment and encourages a spirit of generosity by creating something special for somebody else.”

The exhibition will feature 14-year-old artist Abbie-Rose Whale from Winmalee High School, who was awarded the Curator’s Award – Senior for her artwork titled Tea Time.

Abbie-Rose spent time at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead as a five-year-old after she was hit by a Ute when looking at Christmas lights and suffered a fractured skull. After all these years, she is excited to have her artwork displayed at the hospital.

Image: Abbie-Rose Whale (right) from Winmalee High School.

“It is a very special thing to be given the chance to brighten someone’s day with art and creativity. I hope this artwork inspires people or just makes them smile,” Abbie-Rose said.

Sam Gilfillan from Bundeena Public School won the Curator’s Choice award in the junior category for his artwork titled Still Life Fruit.

“It is always challenging to pick only two artworks for the Curator’s Choice awards, but basically I look for a combination of originality, technique, intention, and if we can squeeze it in, humour,” Ivy Baddock, Art Curator at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, said.

Tea Time had all of these features. The rooster in the artwork looks like a real character and he’s facing a big challenge in keeping all those cups from falling and smashing! Abbie-Rose’s use of paint to describe the different textures of the feathers, the rooster’s comb and the teacups and spoons is impressive also.

“Sam’s artwork shows lots of different techniques with the fruit and background being sketched in with crayon and overlaid with ink washes, the result is a bright and colourful artwork with diverse textures and patterns.”

This year’s edition of the Operation Art program also saw the introduction of the Danny Eastwood Indigenous Art Award.

This award has been introduced to celebrate the wonderful artwork produced by students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds. It is named after an inspiring local artist and Ngemba man, Danny Eastwood. He selected the artwork that most appealed to him for the inaugural award – a painting titled All the Emotions by Year 5 student Kiara LeBrocque from Hamilton North Public School.

Shenandoah Spring, a Year 11 student from Dubbo School of Distance Education, was recognised for her detailed pencil drawing of The Rescue Brumby with the Outstanding Teacher and Student Award.

Image: Sam Gilfillan from Bundeena Public School.
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