Northern Beaches Art Prize brings mental health benefits

The Northern Beaches Art Prize has moved online this year due to COVID-19, but the exhibition is as vibrant as ever, showcasing the very best of local artistic talent.

In these times, more people are turning to the benefits of art for their mental health. For many of this year’s young entrants, art has been a vital means of coping with the pandemic.

We’ve taken a look at the exhibition and taken an interest in particular in the talented young entrants and what art means to them in these difficult times.

About the Northern Beaches Art Prize

The Northern Beaches Art Prize, formerly known as the Warringah Art Prize, was launched in 1955. Every year it attracts hundreds of entries from local artists of all ages and abilities. This year, in spite of the pandemic, over 1,000 people submitted their artworks, with 90 being chosen for the online exhibition. Thirty of these finalists were aged 18 and under.

This year’s theme was Postcards from the Home, encouraging people to express their feelings about life during COVID through their art. For many of the entrants, this has served as art therapy for their mental health during the pandemic.

The relationship between art and mental health

The link between creative arts and mental health is widely recognised, with art therapy often used to help those suffering from mental health conditions. Even many famous artists express mental illness through their work, as art provides a lifeline for those who are going through difficult times.

This relationship is constantly being researched. Studies show that creating art reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and helps people to achieve a state of greater mental wellbeing.

How young people expressed what they did during COVID

Many of the youth entries for the art prize show everyday activities at home with the COVID restrictions in place.

Fifteen-year-old Finlay Miller’s etching depicts a computer gamer in a bedroom, with the description, “When you are locked up at home, what else do you have to do but sit down, relax and play your favourite games?”

Other artists expressed their joy at living in a beautiful area like the Northern Beaches. Eighteen-year-old Emily Hick says, “I’m so lucky to live on the Northern Beaches. One of my favourite pastimes is going to Pittwater on Palm Beach to watch the sunset over the ranges.”

Siera Powell, aged 13, chose to celebrate the value of online connections during these isolated times. She says, “My artwork is about connecting online and that they make time for each other…connecting virtually and living far apart.”

How young artists expressed their feelings

For the young finalists, their artworks have been ways of expressing their feelings during the pandemic. Many of the works have art and mental health quotes accompanying them.

George Cox’s self-portrait describes “the bleak reality of being chained to my desk at home yet longing to be somewhere else,” while 16-year-old Samuel Atkinson felt as if “everyone drew back into themselves and didn’t often connect to anyone else.”

Brodie Folkard, 15, experienced anxiety as a result of friendship troubles during the lockdown and used his artwork as a means of dealing with his loneliness. “Overcoming this lockdown was a hardship,” he says.

Personal journey’s

For all of the young finalists, their artwork has taken them on a very personal journey during a difficult time. You can see the online exhibition here until Sept. 30. You can also vote for your favourite finalist until Sept. 15. 2020.

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