Festival return delight

The Penola Coonawarra region was buzzing last weekend, with people excited to celebrate the annual Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival which was back up and running for 2021.

After the festival was cancelled last year due to COVID-19, the event made a successful return, with many people relishing the opportunity to come together and celebrate art in all its forms in the picturesque region.

The weekend was filled with fun, laughter, food and wine, with comedy events, art workshops, exhibitions, music and more. The John Shaw Neilson Festival Opening Night was a highlight on Friday evening. Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival Committee Chairperson John Mossop said the crowd at the opening night was one of the biggest he had seen.

“There seem to be a lot of faces I do not know, people seem to have travelled some distance to get here and I think that’s very exciting,” he said. Julie Kent claimed the $12,000 John Shaw Neilson Acquisitive Art Prize, sponsored by The Balnaves Foundation, with her painting Undressed, inspired by the John Shaw Neilson poem As Far as My Heart Can Go. Her painting was described as ‘beautifully nuanced,’ ‘truly poetic,’ and ‘moving.’

The $1000 JSN local prize winner, sponsored by Lois Hodge, was Rose Milton with her painting Once Upon a Time, and the JSN Highly Commended Prize winner sponsored by Penola High School was David W Braun with his ink on paper landscape When The Angels are Nearest.

The $1000 Design Prize Winner sponsored by Bendigo Bank was Olivia Balk and the Packers prize voucher winner sponsored by ROAK was Colin Tenney. Mr Mossop believed the festival added to the complexity of the community and gave it a soul. “Everyone wants something of all interests,” he said.

“I think it’s great for the community to have diversity. “We’re very proud so many people made the effort to put their works of art in.” People could appreciate and admire artworks throughout the weekend at exhibitions such as the Flowers of the Wartime Exhibition at the Coonawarra Penola RSL, John Shaw Neilson Acquisitive Art Prize and Design Exhibition, Guy Detot’s Le Max Gallery and Abstract Beside the Vines by Anne Miller.

Various wineries showcased many different works such as macramé, woodwork, paintings, sculptures and wireworks. The celebrations continued on Sunday with a stroll down Petticoat Lane, an Open Mic competition at the Royal Oak Hotel and fun for the kids at the Bendigo Bank Kids Program and kids’ art classes.

ABC Radio Adelaide evening host Peter Goers said he loved Penola and was very happy to be at the festival. His book launch and signing at Guy Detot’s Le Max Gallery on Saturday was a huge success, where he sold every book.

Local St Mary’s Gin provided a gin tasting for those who attended. The festival’s Music Program Director Simon Weston said it was very rewarding to bring the arts festival back to the community after the disappointment of cancelling the 2020 event.

“It comes after a lot of hard work from a small group of volunteers,” he said. “To finally have the arts festival back on the calendar; because people are really craving entertainment, to go out and have fun and to have an event.”

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