Sculpture in the Gaol 2019 Winners

Image: Raptor by Alf Blakey (photo: Jessica Robertson)

Prizes amounting to the value of $5,450 were awarded on Saturday to winners in numerous categories of sculpture, photography and group installations, reflecting the broad range of submissions to this year’s Sculpture in the Gaol exhibition.

This year’s judge was professional artist Chris Edwards of 'Edwards Clarke', a designer, public art specialist and a descendant of the Gumbaynggir and Dunghutti people. Chris said, “There is some really beautiful work on display at this exhibition and I’ve loved spending time studying the exhibits.”

The overall Judge’s Art Prize was awarded to Alf Blakey for his keenly-observed work ‘Raptor’, while the People’s Vote saw Sam Hawkins’ impressive piece ‘Vern’ elected as winner. A further $750 was awarded in travel bursaries to artists travelling interstate to exhibit, while several artists were provided complimentary accommodation to help facilitate their participation.

Kempsey Shire Council General Manager Craig Milburn was on hand to hand certificates to artists chosen by public vote at the closing ceremony held at Seabreeze Beach Hotel. Prizes and commendations recognised 20 works and artists, including the hundreds of school students and community members who contribute to group installations.

Event organiser Phil Nicholas of Events Delivered said, “This was a vintage year for Sculpture in the Gaol with a breathtaking diversity in art media and presentation. We instigated a new Installations Prize to recognise the increasing number of exhibits in this category, where artists often respond to the venue.”

“So many people visited this year, we believe there is scope to next year’s opening weekend into a three-day festival of art workshops, cultural activities and exhibition,” Phil said.

More than 5,000 visitors were recorded at Trial Bay Gaol during the month-long exhibition, with approximately 2,000 attending the popular opening gala weekend in early August. The new Saturday night art opening ‘Gaol After Dark’ provided particularly popular with over 150 guests enjoying food, local craft beer, live music and fire twirling in the atmospheric, spot-lit Gaol with the Milky Way overhead.

2019 Sculpture in the Gaol was presented by a sub-committee of the Macleay Valley Arts Council and was made possible thanks to sponsorship from NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Kempsey Shire Council, Coastline Credit Union, Seabreeze Beach Hotel and several other local businesses. Follow all the results on Instagram @sculptureinthegaol

Phil Nicholas
Sculpture in the Gaol opening weekend approaches

Image (Jessica Robertson): Uncle John Kelly conducting a smoking ceremony at 2018 SITG

The opening weekend of 2019 Sculpture in the Gaol exhibition is fast approaching.

“The exhibition takes place at Trial Bay Gaol in South West Rocks and is now in its eleventh year,” event coordinator Phil Nicholas said. “This is the first time we’ve spread the opening over two events, as it made sense to design different offerings for the large audience interested in outdoor art.”

“We begin this Saturday evening with a Gaol After Dark opening for artists and art fans. The event is a fundraiser for Sculpture in the Gaol which is a not-for-profit sub-committee of the Macleay Valley Arts Council. Sculptures located in cells will be lit up. It’s the only time people will be able to view the works in this way.”

“The ticket price includes complimentary hot food and our licensed bar is a team effort by Seabreeze Beach Hotel and Kempsey’s Bucket Brewery. Guest judge Chris Edwards will announce the Judge’s Prize for sculpture in the open category and guests will be treated to a fire show created especially for the event by local circus educator Pixie Flames,” Phil said.

The popular Family Gala Day is on Sunday 4th August from 9am. Aside from exhibiting over 100 sculptures, the event features a display of classic and vintage cars and motorcycles, live music, a jumping castle, hot food and coffee, art workshops and craft stalls.

Local elders will conduct a Welcome to Country at 11am and community members associated with Dalaigur Pre-School will present The Carpet Snake dreamtime story in support of their group installation.

Normal Gaol entries fee are waived on this day in lieu of a $5 donation from adults, with children free of charge.

The main exhibition and the Escapee Trail, in which sculptures are presented in ten local businesses, run until the end of August.

Phil Nicholas
Some of our sculptures have escaped!

Image: Narci Sunnies by Al Phemister. Located at Rocks Central Shopping Centre.

A posse of sculptures have once again escaped from Trial Bay Gaol. According to sources, the sculptures each made off with a word from the Escapee Trail motto and are currently holed up in businesses around South West Rocks.

Event coordinator Phil Nicholas said, “This is about extending the footprint of the exhibition to give visitors to South West Rocks more reasons to take a look around and pop in to businesses they may not typically enter.”

Maps showing the location of each sculpture are available from each business, as well as from the Trial Bay Gaol gatehouse office.

“This year we’ve injected a bit of fun by creating the Escapee Trail motto. Visit each sculpture, see which words they are guarding and complete the motto, then drop your map off at Seabreeze Beach Hotel. Prizes will be drawn at the Sculpture in the Gaol Awards Ceremony at Seabreeze on Saturday 31st August during Eat Street South West Rocks” Mr Nicholas said.

The ten participating businesses are Rocks Central Shopping Centre, Rocks Travel, Heritage Beachside Café, Sixty Degrees, Elders Real Estate, Coastline Credit Union, Seabreeze Beach Hotel, Raw Spice, Chillati, SWR Surf Club.

Team Leader at South West Rocks Coastline Credit Union, Amanda McDonnell said, “As well as sponsoring the exhibition, we’re delighted to host a sculpture at our branch. It’s a talking point and a beautiful piece of work I enjoy looking at each time I walk past.”

The Escapee Trail runs until the end of August and the majority of sculptures exhibited are priced for sale.

Phil Nicholas
Gaol After Dark fundraiser

Image: Skull Lamp by Sam Hawkins

A rare chance to explore Trial Bay Gaol after dark awaits guests attending the Gaol After Dark fundraiser on Saturday 3rd August.

“This event is a fundraiser for Sculpture in the Gaol,” said event coordinator Phil Nicholas. “Now that the exhibition is produced by a sub-committee of Macleay Valley Arts Council, funds raised will contribute to the artist prize pool and marketing campaign.”

“It’s a great way to bring artists, our generous sponsors and the general public together for an evening of art and entertainment,” said Mr Nicholas. “We’re laying on complimentary food for guests and Kempsey’s Bucket Brewery will be serving craft beer. Artist Chris Edwards will be announcing the Sculpture in the Gaol Judge’s Art Prize.”

Local performance artists Timbadim and Joey from Pixie Flames will present a new work titled Café, commissioned for this event. “I’m trying something I’ve never seen or done before, combining clowning, magic, story-telling and fire twirling all in to one piece of performance”, Timbadim said.

Over 100 works have been submitted for this year’s exhibition and this event provides a rare opportunity to view sculptures in spot-lit cells after dark.

In recent years the sculpture exhibition has generated up to 5,000 visits to the Gaol during the month of August and the organisers are working hard to attract visitors to South West Rocks during the tourist low-season and to support local business.

Tickets for Gaol After Dark cost $20 and can be purchases via the Sculpture in the Gaol website.

Phil Nicholas
Artist workshops for adults and kids

A series of artist-led workshops will keep minds stimulated at this year’s Sculpture in the Gaol exhibition.

“Exhibitions like this are always inspiring, so we’re offering visitors the chance to seize the moment and do something creative,” event coordinator Phil Nicholas said.

Two different workshops are scheduled for Sunday 4th August, during the Family Gala Day, when thousands of visitors flock to the Gaol.

Exhibiting artist Fiona Scope brings her love of art and well-being together in an engaging activity called ‘Yogart’ designed for children aged 6 to 12 years.

“I kick off the workshops with some fun yoga games, such as musical yoga and meditation, which has a calming effect on kids,” Fiona said. “Then we get stuck into art activities where children are guided in the use of pastel, water colour, ink, pencil or acrylic.”

Yogart sessions are provided free of charge and will run periodically throughout the day, with start times advertised at the event.

If you enjoy making things using natural materials, renowned Northern Rivers community artist Pamela Denise will be running a workshop showing how to make a grapevine chandelier.

“It is a great feeling to make an artwork from garden debris and this simple technique can produce spectacular results when chandeliers are lit at night,” Pamela said.

Workshop spaces can be booked in advance via the Sculpture in the Gaol website.

Then on Saturday 17th August, Fiona Scope returns to the Gaol to help you improve your drawing skills. Topics covered will include contour drawing techniques, negative space verse positive space and portraiture.

The workshop suits beginners aged 15 years and above or experienced artists who would like to improve their drawing skills.

For more information and bookings visit

Phil Nicholas
The Carpet Snake – a Dreamtime story at Sculpture in the Gaol

Image: (Jessica Robertson) telling of the King of the Birds Dreamtime story by Dunghutti community members at SITG 2018

The carpet snake, the eagle and the shark are the three principal characters in a Dreamtime story that will come to life in sculptures created by local pre-school students at this year’s Sculpture in the Gaol exhibition.

The story has been recounted by local Elders, Uncle John Kelly and Auntie Vicki Taylor, who has been instrumental in teaching the Dunghutti language to children in the region.

Following the overwhelmingly positive response received by last year’s King of the Birds installation, featuring clay nests arranged in a canoe and involving more than 200 community members, the team at Dalaigur Pre-School & Children’s Services knew their work would be cut out to match this achievement.

This year’s installation is set to include papier maché and plaster models of the three animals at the centre of the story and once again, involves all the children associated with both Dalaigur and Scribbly Gum Dalai Pre-Schools in Kempsey.

“The kids work on the project at least once a week, telling the story and learning language, which we verify using the Dunghutti Dictionary,” Uncle John Kelly said. Uncle John will conduct a smoking ceremony at this year’s Family Gala Day on Sunday, August 4, when the installation is unveiled at Trial Bay Gaol.

“The exhibition offers a great opportunity for our community of students to learn about and for our Elders to share cultural knowledge with the wider community,” director of Dalaigur Pre-School & Children’s Services, Megan McKay said.

Entries for the main exhibition, which runs from Saturday, August 3 to Friday, August 30, can be made via the website, until the end of June. There is no entry fee for artists and the prize pool currently stands at $5,000.

Phil Nicholas
Professional judge and new awards reinvigorate Sculpture in the Gaol

Image: Bloodlines, by Chris Edwards 2015. The Lake Neighbourhood Centre & Parklands, Blacktown NSW.

The appointment of a professional artist to judge exhibits, plus the creation of new award categories, is reinvigorating the 2019 Sculpture in the Gaol exhibition.

This year’s judge, Chris Edwards of 'Edwards Clarke', is a designer, public art specialist and a descendant of the Gumbaynggir people of Nambucca Heads. As a regular finalist in the Parliament of NSW Indigenous Art Prize, Chris’s work was highly recommended. He also won the National Landcom Award Mentorship to promote inclusive projects that build community identity and local participation through consultation and public artwork in new housing developments.

Event coordinator Phil Nicholas said, “We’re delighted to welcome Chris to judge the main prize categories, as well as give feedback to artists, drawing on his years of experience in the industry.”

“This exhibition attracts a lot of school and community group entries, which we absolutely love and it’s important to recognise the ideas, passion and effort that goes into producing these works.”

A prize will also be awarded for the popular Public Vote, as per previous years, plus two new categories for 2019, the Environmental Awareness and Emerging Artist awards, which each attract a cash prize.

“We’ve already had a local eco-business, Self Sufficiency Supplies, sponsor the prize money for the Environmental Awareness award”, said Mr Nicholas. “It is important that sponsorship is tied to measurable outcomes, so that business owners can see and talk about what their sponsorship is supporting.”

Another new prize category, named Spirit of the Macleay Valley, will be awarded by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, who host the exhibition at the historic Trial Bay Gaol in South West Rocks.

The event organisers have been also developing an Artist’s Travel & Accommodation Bursary, designed to support artists travelling significant distances to exhibit.

Mr Nicholas explained, “The exhibition has traditionally attracted submissions from Port Macquarie and the Hunter regions in the south and from Bellingen and beyond in the north, but now we’re receiving enquiries from artists wanting to travel from the Gold Coast, as well as southern and inland regions of NSW.”

Entries for the main exhibition, which runs from Saturday 3rd to Friday 30th August, can be made via the website and close at 5pm on Friday 14th June. There is no entry fee for artists and the prize pool currently stands at $5,000.

Head to and follow @sculptureinthegaol

Phil Nicholas
Sculpture in the Gaol artist applications open

Artist applications have opened for the 2019 Sculpture in the Gaol exhibition, which runs from Saturday 3rd to Friday 30th August.

Hosted by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service at the historic Trial Bay Gaol in South West Rocks, the exhibition attracts artist entries from all over NSW and interstate, plus many local schools from around the Macleay Valley. Works are exhibited in and around the Gaol cells, which makes for a unique gallery experience.

Entries for the exhibition may be submitted via the exhibition website and close at 5pm on Friday 14th June. There is no entry fee and artists have the opportunity to share in a $5,000 prize pool.

Sculpture in the Gaol is now managed by a sub-committee of Macleay Valley Arts Council, working in partnership with State and local government bodies, business chambers, schools and business sponsors.

The sub-committee chair, local sculptor John Wilby said, “the new structure means stewardship of the event can be focussed on building value for artists and increasing awareness of this significant community art exhibition beyond the Macleay Valley.”

“We’re inviting sponsors to join us in this mission, while benefitting from the growing reputation and audience for this event.”

The exhibition unites the community around South West Rocks through its engagement with schools and in particular via the Escapee Trail, in which sculptures are hosted by local businesses. This year the Escapee Trail is scheduled to begin in early June and run through to the end of August. Entries for the Escapee Trail must be submitted by Friday 17th May.

The 2019 artistic programme also includes artist workshops and the introduction of professionally-judged art prizes, alongside the traditional people’s vote.

The opening event this year is a VIP Fundraiser on Saturday 3rd August, for which tickets are already on sale via the website, followed by the ever-popular Family Gala Day on Sunday 4th August.

The Awards Ceremony will take place at SeaBreeze Beach Hotel on Saturday 31st August, on the same day as the SWR Eat Street.

Phil Nicholas