Having your work selected for an Open exhibition is a very effective way of building up your artist’s CV, especially if you’re an emerging or early-career artist. Winning the competition can provide an even bigger boost to your career – as well as a cash prize and the opportunity of a solo exhibition at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, the exposure of winning the Open exhibition can lead to other artistic opportunities. Here’s what just some of the competition’s previous winners have been up to recently.

Marie JonesMarie Jones is the most recent winner of the Open Exhibition in 2018, and her debut solo show Let’s Get Stuck in Traffic! features as part of this year’s programme, along with the third edition of Ride Your Pony, an international group show curated by Marie. She has recently been selected as one of 8 North West England-based contemporary visual artists to participate in the 2019 Artists’ International Delegation to Denmark.

Marie said, “Having recently moved into the area, it has been a great way for me to get to know the community. The solo show has allowed me to create a new and self-directed body of work. It is my first solo show and therefore an important step-change in my practice.

The staff have been very supportive not only in the lead up to this but also directing me to useful links, professional development courses and connecting me with other artists in the Warrington community. Culture Warrington play an important role in Warrington, one that I see the staff continuously striving to develop in line with the artistic community. In preparation for the show, I was given access to and a tour of the museum archives which has influenced my work for the show.

Without this opportunity in Warrington, I would most likely have kept my practice within the Manchester region. Building a relationship with Culture Warrington has enabled me to see a future for my practice in Warrington. I’m excited to see what WCAF will bring in 2019 to Warrington.”

Tracy Hill. Photo by Jenny DrinkwaterTracy Hill won the first Open in 2011 and then again in 2017, and has gone on to win numerous other prizes and awards, including most recently the Artist Newsletter Artist Bursary Award. Tracy’s work is in the permanent collections of galleries and universities in Australia,  China, Poland, Turkey, and the USA.

Tracy said: “Since its inception, WCAF has provided an important platform for regional artists of all disciplines and stages of their careers.  

The WCAF Open is a unique opportunity which is key for inspiring the next generation of artists. There is always something special about contributing to and exhibiting in your home town, it is the point in the year that the artistic community come together and show the diversity and strength of creativity in the region.”

Bex Ilsley. Photo by Paul JacksonThe winner of 2016’s Art Open was Bex Ilsley‘s Your Cities Will Shine Forever, a wall-mounted installation and virtual reality app viewed through a headset. The piece was a self-portrait which also explored the predicament of living between the physical and virtual. The following year her first solo exhibition entitled Emotional Processing was shown at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery. Now based in Coventry, Bex is a visiting lecturer of art at Hereford college and has upcoming shows in Coventry, London and Birmingham.

Speaking after her win, Bex said: “This type of opportunity is vital for artists at the beginning of their careers and I am beyond grateful because funding and awards are the only way I have to continue practicing at this stage.”

2013 winner Carol Miller added: “Winning the Open planted a seed of belief which has sustained my practice and given me self-assurance in my work; I’ve carried that with me ever since.

“By entering you are demonstrating you have the belief that you’re good enough to stand and be judged beside your peers, and you never know what that can lead to.”

David Foster, winner of the 2012 Open, said: “Winning literally changed my life – from being a dabbling amateur artist experimenting in a new style of contemporary art to now being a full-time professional artist with sales worldwide, corporate clients and a waiting list for commissions.

“I would encourage any budding artist to enter; the prize of being able to hold your own exhibition is immense and could be life-changing for you too.”