Bow Arts has launched East London Art Prize. Image credit: Rob Harris

Bow Arts launches East London Art Prize

Bow Arts has teamed up with cultural heavyweights including UCL East, The Line and V&A East to launch the new East London Art Prize. 

A place of great social and political change, East Enders have often been proud of their ‘anti-establishment’ badge; and nowhere is this more evident than in its art scene. 

It’s been a hub for like-minded creatives on the fringes of society to mingle, make art and collaborate. Think the East London Group in the early 20th century, or the dilapidated warehouses turning into bohemian hubs in the latter half of the 20th century, to every inch of exposed brick awash with colourful yet illegal graffiti in Hackney Wick, art has been an informal yet integral feature of the borough’s livelihood and character.

But now, one of the area’s long-standing arts organisations is teaming up with globally recognised institutions to further this artistic heritage.

Not-for-profit arts organisation Bow Arts has partnered up with some of the country’s leading cultural organisations to establish an art prize to formally recognise the work of East London’s artistic community.

Called East London Art Prize, Sophie Hill, Bow Arts’ Head of Art and Events, said it hopes to capture ‘an exciting snapshot’ of the art being made in the area.

Hill made the official announcement of the prize at the start of this month.

Bow Arts, which has been at its site on Bow Road for 28 years, has partnered with national and international creative organisations with hubs and offices in and around East Bank including The Line, UCL East, and V&A East.

Hill said that, with the arrival of such globally recognised institutions to the East End, it is exciting for homegrown organisations to work with larger partners to create unique and long-standing partnerships. In Bow Arts’ instance, these partnerships could support artists and bring their work to the attention of new audiences through the development of ‘satellite exhibitions’.  

Megan Piper, Co-founder and Director of The Line, London’s first permanent public art trail, said that she is ‘delighted to be involved in the inaugural East London Art Prize’. Piper, who is also on the judging panel, added that East London has ‘traditionally been a creative place as artists could afford to live here’. While regenaration has had an impact of this, she said organisations such as Bow Arts, and its East Banks partner, are nurturing and furthering talent in the area.

For UCL East, which is getting its East End doors ready to open this September, it is excited to partner with such an established and well-respected creative place.

Sam Wilkinson, Head of Public Art at UCL, said that UCL has always been impressed with how effective Bow Arts is in furthering East London’s creative legacy through its various affordable art studios, residencies and apartments. This, she said, has allowed ‘creators to bounce off one another in a really positive way’.

She added that Bow Arts ‘is doing an amazing job’ and that this prize ‘is another way of acknowledging those achievements.’

Highly sensitive to the area’s social and economic issues at play, Wilkinson said that it was important for UCL, which is viewed as a ‘big institution’, to work out how best it can ‘support, reflect, and work with the cultural and creative community in East London’.

She said: ‘The prize is really really important because we, as institutions, need to keep supporting those practitioners in East London.’ 

The competition is open to any artist living or working within an ‘E’ postcode, encompassing E1 to E20, SE1 to SE28 and EC1 to EC4. Artist collectives and joint submissions are all accepted and all media types are accepted, including painting, print, drawing, sculpture, digital, film, audio, ceramics, textiles and performance. 

Hill said that East London has ‘such a brilliant diverse demographic of artists’ and that this will help in ensuring the diversity of ideas and projects presented. She also noted that collaborative projects are becoming more and more popular. 

The winner of the prize will receive £15,000 and will work with Hill to create a solo exhibition at the Nunnery Gallery. The runner-up will receive a year’s free studio space at one of Bow Arts’ studio sites.  

Hill cited that the last few years for artists have been particularly hard and said that she hopes such a prize will be ‘career changing’ for the artists.  She added: ‘The opportunity to develop an exhibition, that’s very exciting for an artist and their career as well. So, hopefully, this prize will be supportive in taking an artist to that next step.’

If you enjoyed this article, then read our piece on the London Centre for Book Arts.

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