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Student Art Prize Winner – Hands of Acceptance

The background

Although we don’t formally teach fine art at Durham, almost every college has its own active art society or art group, where students take part in workshops, meet artists, and develop their artistic skills through collaborative creativity.

The Student Art Prize was launched in October 2019 to expand opportunities around creativity and to develop a new permanent student art collection, housed within the university’s wider art collection, but available as a resource for the whole community.

The prize fund this year was generously supported by alumni Richard Roberts and offers £1500 for first place, £1000 for second and £500 for third.

In this blog, we hear from the winner of the first-ever art prize competition, Alice Stubbings who tells us what inspired her to enter the competition.

The theme

Diversity has always been an integral part of society. As the theme of this year’s Student Art Competition, it was a subject that I felt incredibly inspired by, increasing prominence within the media in 2020 through the Black Lives Matter movement.  

Art is something that I have always immensely enjoyed doing and is a way to express my opinions and emotions. Since before I could read or write, I found great enjoyment through being creative. This has continued throughout my life, including at university. 

Therefore, my inspiration through the topic of diversity and love for art resulted in the submission of my piece ‘Hands of Acceptance’ into the competition. In the piece of work I created, I wanted to reflect the work of past and present influences on the topic of diversity. Michelle Obama, Martin Luther King, Gandhi; all important advocates of diversity, some of which died for their cause. Their dedication and passion is something that I tried to highlight and honor within my piece. The more that I researched into their work, the more I learnt, and the more I become inspired by their actions. 

The awards ceremony – online

At the awards ceremony, the sponsor of this year’s Art Prize, alumni Richard Roberts, spoke about the importance of student mental health at Durham, and the support that was currently in place to aid mental health problems that students experience. This resonated with me greatly, as I find art a great way to help reduce stress. I also think that mental health is an incredibly important factor within university life, and supporting it through the promotion of art is a fantastic idea, and something that I hope will be continued.  

I never expected to win the competition, I entered purely for my own enjoyment in creating artwork. The response I have has been overwhelmingly positive, and I look forward to creating more pieces of work in the future. I am currently working on a series about climate change, another topical issue that I have been inspired by.  

The full results of the prizes awarded on the night are listed below:

1st place prize: Hands of acceptance by Alice Stubbings
2nd place prize: Ascension by James Bailey
3rd place prize: Wisdom of Age by Anna Horwich

Highly commended: Kaleidoscope by Zihan Zhou and Papa Gus by Lizzie English
Popular vote: Papa Gus by Lizzie English

The future

The Student Art Prize is more than just an opportunity to showcase artwork. It promotes the arts at Durham, which is important through their function in encouraging positive mental health. It also provides an opportunity to become inspired and learn, two things which I think that the culture at Durham prides itself upon. Topical themes, such as diversity, provide an opportunity for discussion on relevant matters within our society today. It’s for these reasons that I hope the Student Art Prize becomes an established part of the University, and I look forward to what the competition theme is next year. 

To see all the artworks and learn more about the Student Art Prize visit the web pages here.

The Student Art Prize is part of our annual Summer in the City arts festival,, a collaboration between Durham University and Durham County Council, showcasing Durham’s art, music, and theatre.

Alice Stubbings

Hi, I’m Alice, I’m a first-year law student from St Mary’s College. Other than my degree, I participate in my college and university art societies.

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