Inaugural National Teacher-Artist Prize

Melanie De Zordo with her work ‘Piggy in the Middle’

Blue Haven Public School Teacher, Melanie De Zordo, is taking part in the inaugural National Teacher-Artist Prize.

Sponsored by Zart Art, the first of its kind Art Prize is a contemporary 2D and 3D art competition open exclusively to teacher-artists.

The prize aims to encourage, recognise and celebrate educators who foster the fundamental importance of the visual arts in children’s education, while simultaneously supporting their individual art practice, with the winner to receive $10,000 in cash as well as $10,000 worth of art supplies for their nominated school.

De Zordo’s entry is entitled ‘Piggy in the Middle’, with the acrylic painting over a monotype print personal to the artist and her family.

“The piece is of my family cats.

“The one in the middle is affectionately nicknamed ‘Piggy’, who sadly passed away two years ago, aged 15.

“My oldest child is 12, so she was a huge part of my kids’ lives and the piece is all about commemorating our cherished pets, their unique personalities and celebrating the playfulness of Piggy and the love and connection that my family feel towards her.

“My fondness for colour, pattern and texture is revealed in the background of the artwork.

“It provides further interest and detail without taking away from the subject matter.

“The circular shapes and patterns represent connection and unity, family, love and connection.

“She is Piggy in the Middle,” De Zordo explained.

The self described mixed media artist said she entered the competition for both personal satisfaction and for the chance of bringing something totally new to art lessons at Blue Haven PS.

“In my own artmaking I’ve tried quite a few things medium wise, but I really enjoy experimentation, which is why a lot of my work ends up as mixed media.

“I’m obsessed with gel plates and mono printing right now and I would really like to be able to incorporate some of that into the classroom but would need the necessary materials and equipment to do so, because I would love to see students receive more well rounded exposure to the arts,” De Zordo said.

Having also worked as a high school Visual Arts Teacher, De Zordo said that she had seen first hand how limited exposure during primary school made it harder for students to engage with visual arts courses once they entered high school.

“When I was teaching high school visual arts, I had Year 7 students who’d never touched clay.

“As both an artist and a teacher, that was very frustrating, which is why I think this National Teacher-Artist Prize is such a good opportunity.

“$10,000 worth of materials would enable Blue Haven PS to do so much more than just your typical oil pastels.”

De Zordo said that by entering she was also hoping to inspire her students to pursue their own goals when it comes to art.

“I do hope that by putting myself out there that some of my kids feel inspired.

“If there’s one thing that I can teach them, I want it to be how good it feels to do art for yourselves.

“It can be hard to not feel worried about how you work will be perceived, but it really is about your own fulfilment.

“My own artmaking is always influenced by what’s going on in my life and I always try to give myself what I need through that passion.

“First and foremost, I do it for me.

“I couldn’t do it any other way.”

Finalists for the National Teacher-Artist Prize will be announced on March 1, 2021, with the winner, Highly Commended and People’s Choice awards to be unveiled at opening night of the finalist exhibition on April 2, 2021.

Dilon Luke

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