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Sculpting success: TAFE NSW Students Finalists in 2021 Muswellbrook Art Prize

TAFE NSW Lismore

Two TAFE NSW Lismore students in the Diploma of Ceramics have been announced as finalists in the 48th Muswellbrook Art Prize 2021.

A random text from a classmate prompted Antoinette O’Brien and Brooke Jenkins to enter the prestigious event. Their works are among a total of 12 finalists chosen in the ceramics prize section.

The Muswellbrook Art Prize is one of the largest art prizes in regional Australia, offering $71,000 in prize money across four categories.

After graduating in 2020, Ms Jenkins, a former naturopath and whole-food caterer, submitted a mixed media piece that she created for a sculpture assessment. She is now designing and selling commissioned stoneware to businesses in the Lismore area.   

“I’m completely new to ceramics. I was really surprised to make the finalist list; this is way beyond any of my expectations,” said Ms Jenkins.

Ms O’Brien, an established artist, is no stranger to recognition after winning the Lismore Regional Gallery Hurwood Harwood Portrait Prize in 2020. She continues her studies this year while preparing for an exhibition at the Lismore Regional Gallery in August. 

“Receiving this level of recognition is extremely significant and helps my practice,” said Ms O’Brien. “It’s like hearing a whole community chorus singing we support you and the premise of your work.”

With previous training in the arts, Ms O’Brien believes the TAFE NSW ceramics program to be unique.

“Accessing training for technical skills has not been available in the past,” said Ms O’Brien. “The teaching staff provide incredible support and mentoring, and the excellent facilities draw people to the program.”

TAFE NSW Head Teacher of Creative Arts at Lismore, Rohan Langford, said: “This is an outstanding achievement; to have one student represented would be amazing, but to have two students clearly shows the level of skill and artistic merit achieved by our ceramics graduates in Lismore.”

“The Diploma focuses on combining the science and the art of ceramics, which is so valuable in growing our students’ technical ability. There is so much opportunity for our students to apply the skills and experiences they gain as part of their studies to several different career paths in the arts.”  

According to a recent report by the BYP Group titled NSW Creative Industries: An Economic Snapshot, NSW boasts 42 per cent of the nation’s creative jobs and produces 70 per cent of creative industry exports.

It also found that employment growth in the NSW creative industries was almost double the average growth rate of other professions over the past five years.

The 2021 winners of the Muswellbrook Art Prize will be announced on Saturday 6 March, and all submissions will be on exhibition to the public from 7 March – 2 May 2021.

For more information on the Diploma of Ceramics, visit or phone 131 601.

Media contact: Kelly Lawler, Communications Specialist