Judges announced for Manchester Open Exhibition

The judging panel has been announced for the Manchester Open Exhibition 2022.

HOME Curator Bren O’Callaghan and Community and Outreach Programme Producer Anne-Louise Kershaw are joined by Short Supply’s Mollie Balshaw and Rebekah Beasley, Pankhurst Centre ambassador Venessa Scott, A.Mal Collective founder Jessica El Mal, Oglesby Charitable Trust chair Kate Vokes and Castlefield Gallery director Helen Wewiora.

Submissions for the exhibition are currently open, with artists able to submit in all mediums, including paintings, prints, photography, sculpture, digital and mixed media, video and audio, spoken word, and performance, until Friday 17 September.

Bren, Anne-Louise, Kate and Helen return to the judging panel for the second time, having been an integral part of the selection process for the inaugural Manchester Open in 2020.

As well as Helen sitting on the judging panel, Castlefield Gallery supported with winners of the Manchester Open Awards by providing a programme of professional and creative development commissioned by HOME.

Helen said: “Following what was an overwhelming response to the Manchester Open 2020, if we think about how much creativity has become so important to so many people over the course of the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns, it is hard to even imagine how many entries might be received for 2022! I am looking forward to what I expect will be another demanding yet equally rewarding judging process, and all at Castlefield Gallery are excited.”

The Oglesby Charitable Trust helped HOME to introduce the Inspire ticket scheme which provides discounted theatre tickets for people who might not otherwise be able to afford them. Its Chair, Kate Vokes, is also a Non-Executive Director at Bruntwood, where she helps oversee the property company’s relationships in support of its purpose to create thriving cities, and she sits of the judging panel for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting.

Kate said: “I am delighted to be a part of the Manchester Open again, it was so uplifting to see such rich and varied work submitted to the last call out. I hope more people are encouraged to submit their artwork to what will be another inspiring and vibrant exhibition.”

There are four new judges on the panel this year, all of whom are artists in their own right. Both co-directors of Short Supply appear on the panel. Mollie Balshaw and Rebekah Beasley set up the organisation in order to bridge the gap between early-career artists and the more established art world.

Mollie explores non-binary identity through painting. They said: “It’s a real treat to be on the selection panel for the Manchester Open. There’s a fantastic creative community here we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know over the last few years. Meeting new artists, inspiring conversation and community; it’s what it’s all about isn’t it?”

Rebekah explores the feminine body, gender and sexuality through the mediums of collage, fibre, print and illustration. She said: “Exhibitions like the Manchester Open are really important. 2020’s was a showstopper and a stand out bit of joy in a year that went so awry. I can’t wait to get comfy with a brew and have a nosy at Manchester’s best!”

Venessa Scott is a prolific public artist and specialist in Creative Education, recognised widely for her contribution to the arts and cultural sector in the North. She also designed and painted one of the UKs tallest murals in Gorse Hill, Greater Manchester.

Venessa said: “Being on the judging panel for the Manchester open is to be a part of history; Part of a monumental celebration and showcase of the rivers of creative skill and artistic development that the region has to offer. It is an absolute privilege and one I am really looking forward to.”

Jessica El Mal is a curator, artist and writer based in Manchester whose projects tend to explore ecology, post-coloniality and speculative future imaginaries. She said: “Being from Oldham, North Manchester, the city’s art scene has always been there for me. From Saturdays nipping into the art gallery as a child to getting older and watching late night showings at The Corner House after my cafe shifts at The Royal Exchange, Manchester has a lot to offer. Manchester Open is the perfect way to showcase what the people, too, have to offer. I can’t wait to be amazed and inspired by the wealth of talent we have!”

HOME’s Community and Outreach Programme Producer Anne-Louise Kershaw said: “The creativity from the vast and varied communities of Greater Manchester was the beating heart of the first Manchester Open, and I cannot wait to delve into this year’s submissions. Our character, imagination and resilience shines through our creativity, and the Manchester Open brings this together on a big scale. It’s genuinely an honour to get to see so much making and Greater Manchester magic!”

The first Manchester Open was the most successful exhibition in HOME’s history and saw over 33,000 visitors enjoying 543 artworks by 451 artists. It was the first region-wide exhibition of its type to welcome entries from people of any background and level of experience, including established professionals, new and emerging talent, enthusiastic amateurs and first-time artists.

HOME curator Bren O’Callaghan summed up the submission process and exhibition, saying: “I feel a bit like Victor Frankenstein by assembling a patchwork accumulation of many parts in the form of the Open that has sprung to life, and has now been unleashed upon the citizens of this city… go, Frankie, go!”

For more information, visit homemcr.org/mcropen2022