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Thursday, 16 November 2023 19:15

MacKillop Art Exhibition: Shaping the Future with Art Thinking

There was a buzz of excitement at Sacred Heart Cathedral last Friday at the launch of the 14th annual MacKillop Art Exhibition which showcases the artistic talents and spiritual insights of students. This year there are just under 300 works from 40 Catholic schools across the Sandhurst Diocese.

The buzz spilled from students and their families who were eagerly awaiting the presentation of awards. A menagerie of fauna peering out from the artworks including, a pink-striped woollen snake, Brush-Tailed Rock Wallabies, a bird of microchips, and a flock of Regent Honey Eaters enjoying the cool of the Cathedral floor, joined the chorus, while a dignified raven carved out of eucalyptus kept a watchful eye over the proceedings.

Exploring the exhibition, allows a glimpse into the minds of Sandhurst Youth. Friendship and kindness were dominant themes in the younger students’ works; nature and environmental sustainability an issue for senior primary and junior high school students; and, for the older teenagers, self-examination – evident in the numerous portraits of young people.

Troy Firebrace, Yorta Yorta and Djaara man gave the Welcome to Country. An artist and educator, Troy said art thinking and art practice are a means for young people to explore their religion, their social beliefs, their own identity and even find their own voice. Troy spoke passionately about the importance of art:

“(Art is) a universal language that has no measure, no rules, no restriction. A terrifying and important force, an exciting force … It has shaped this world. This force is being forged by artists, including the artists who are in this space today. I am honoured to be here. To be part of this space, to be part of this opening and, as a fellow artist, I look forward to shaping the new world with you.”

Fr Brian Boyle, Episcopal Vicar of Education and Administrator of the Cathedral Cluster of parishes, led the opening prayer. “With Mary of the Cross as our companion and guide tonight, we ask our creator God, who inspires all artists, to be with us with the Holy Spirit and to guide us as we endeavour to be Christ’s voice in our world. Amen.”

The theme for this year’s MacKillop Exhibition is “Let the Words you Speak Always be Full of Grace”. Primary School teachers clearly enjoyed exploring this theme with their students in Art and Religious Education classes. Works displayed by primary school students engaged with this theme and featured imagery of the Cross, Jesus, Angels, hearts, flowers, a figurine of Mary, and more birds!

At the launch of the MacKillop Art Exhibition last year, one of the three adjudicators, Dr Adam Staples posed a challenge to students and teachers in 2023 – to work with others to continue art thinking and art making to put forward a message which is collaborative in nature.

This challenge was embraced by students and teachers in Catholic Schools this year, evident in the many collaborative group works on display.
Dr Staples thanked Troy Firebrace for his “astoundingly beautiful words,” agreeing with Troy that that art thinking and art making are ways, amongst many others, that help our young people to understand society and find their way through many different life experiences.

Dr Staples said that it’s wonderful when we can draw upon many different cultures and spiritualities in art practice, and set a challenge for the Exhibition’s Curator, Claire Spinelli, and art students in 2024: “To take up these knowledges and messages, and the 60,000 years of living in harmony in this world that we have in a first nations’ perspective and knowledges, and these come through really strongly as a theme in the works of 2024."

Awards for outstanding works in the categories of General Art and Spiritual Art were awarded across primary and secondary school levels.
The Bishop’s Choice Awards, selected personally by Bishop Shane Mackinlay, were presented by Fr Brian Boyle on behalf of Bishop Shane, to one awardee in primary school and one awardee in secondary school.

Bishop's Choice Award: Primary

Bishop Shane’s choice from the primary school works was a marker and paint work titled “Let the Words You Speak be Full of Grace” by Bella Lappin, a Year 6 student at St Joseph's Primary in Chiltern. Bishop Shane wrote in his award letter to Bella:

“Your work of art thoughtfully and beautifully illustrates the way that love and grace reach out and embrace us, when we experience God’s love for us, and when we share that love with others.”

Bishop's Choice Award: Secondary

Bishop Shane’s choice from the Secondary school works was a mixed media “Regent Honey Eater Totem Project” – a collaborative work by Year 11 Religion and Art students led by Treahna Hamm at Galen College, Wangaratta. In his letter to the awardees Bishop Shane wrote:

“Pope Francis has been a powerful voice calling us to recognise that we are deeply connected to all parts of creation, and to commit ourselves to concrete actions that help this integral ecology to flourish. Your work of art draws on both indigenous totems and Christian patron saints to encourage a renewed commitment to local action to care for our common home.”

MacKillop collaboration galenwangaratta re 1207 1600 1000 80



MacKillop Kylie Morrissey

The Philomena Billington Scholarship for Social Justice through the Arts is awarded to a school that creates art, shapes community and drives change. This year it was awarded to St Augustine’s College Kyabram for their application entitled ‘Our Common Home’.

Philomena Billington said she was impressed by the breadth, depth and inclusion of the application. “It absolutely fulfils the criteria of social justice in action – not just doing something about something, but changing the attitudes of the young people in the College.”

“It will speak to the whole Kyabram community, and I know that the Brigidine Sisters and the Augustinian priests who founded the College would be very proud indeed,” said Philomena.

Kylie Morrissey, a teacher at St Augustine’s College, accepted the award on behalf of the school. “We didn’t shy away from the fact that we have a great deal of work to do in the area of ecological justice and, in particular, informing the hearts of young people in our college community,” said Kylie. Kylie is excited that the scholarship creates an opportunity to accelerate the school’s progress and amplify their impact in ecological justice in Kyabram.


View the Exhibition at Sacred Heart Cathedral

The MacKillop Art Exhibition is open for viewing from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. until Saturday 26 November.

Vote online for Peoples' Choice Award

Viewers have the opportunity to vote online for the ‘People’s Choice Award’. Certain works have been selected by adjudicators to be nominated in this category.


Return to e-News 67 (17 November 2023)