Katrina Moss shares the inspiration and story behind the Uk’s largest faith-linked art prize.
Back in 2016, when my mother was dying of cancer, I prayed: “Here I am send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) I was asking for fresh direction. I didn’t expect the radical direction my life would take. The day my mother died I woke up with the idea to initiate a national art awards focusing on faith and spirituality.
You may think my mum was connected to the arts, she wasn’t. Or that I had a career in the arts, I didn’t, but I have always been a bit of pioneer and passionate about God using many different ways to get our attention and to deepen our walk and relationship with him. I discussed this with my good friend writer Ann Clifford. We had met in church, when she ran a theatre company more than 30 years ago. We have been on many exciting faith journeys together, so I thought she would be up for another adventure into the unknown.
Our final piece of funding only came in two weeks before the exhibition opened.
After a year of planning Ann and I formed a charity to run the biennial Chaiya Art Awards, with a top prize of £10,000. The first awards in 2018 was a tough challenge for us, demanding we learnt many new skills; how to run a charity, how to reach and engage with artists across the whole of the UK, how to mount a ten day exhibition in a prestigious London gallery and how to raise the £50k need to facilitate this. In fact our final piece of funding only came in two weeks before the exhibition opened. All of this and not knowing if our first theme "Where is God in our 21st Century world?" would resonate with artists of faith, those with none and everyone in between.
We were thrilled that more than 450 artists entered the first competition and we chose fifty for the winners’ exhibition at London’s OXO gallery. The show attracted more than 2,700 visitors and we published a beautiful hardback book to showcase the art and to expand on the theme with thought-provoking text and prose.
We are excited what God is doing through the Chaiya Art Awards, as creativity reflects a core part of God’s nature.
Weeks away from opening our second Winners exhibition in 2020, the whole country went into lockdown, however, we were fortunate to be able to postpone it until the following spring, when our exhibition went ahead. We were one of the first galleries to open post covid restrictions and it was fantastic to see the public engaging with the wonderful artworks on our second theme ‘GOD is …’
The awards are still going from strength to strength and our third Winners exhibition opens at Easter on the theme ‘AWE+WONDER’. This time we took the decision to showcase more than 100 artists and hire two galleries, the OXO and The Bargehouse on London’s Southbank. This has bought more challenges and required deeper levels of faith, but we are excited what God is doing through the Chaiya Art Awards, as creativity reflects a core part of God’s nature, and we know that art is transformative, taking the artist and the viewer on unexpected journeys of discovery and change.
AWE + WONDER Exhibition 7-16 April 2023, OXO and Bargehouse galleries, Bargehouse St, London. SE1 9PH www.chaiyaartawards.co.uk