On Friday 7th April 2017, 34 Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) students set up work in the Sculpture Court for this year’s Astaire Art Prize. The work had been shortlisted from an original list of 94 entries, and they all stood a chance of winning the £3,000 prize, or one of the £750 runner-up prizes.

This is the fourth year of the prize being offered to ECA students. It was founded by Mark Astaire, a University of Edinburgh Politics graduate and investment banking professional.

After a judging panel, including Mark and ECA staff, had a chance to look at and discuss all the work, there was a lunch and prize-giving ceremony held in the Old College building on South Bridge.

The winning work was by Lara Hirst, a fourth-year Sculpture – BA (Hons) student. The runners up were Daniel Craddock (Painting - BA [Hons]. 3rd year), Eleanor McCullogh (Fine Art - MA, 5th year), and Craig Waddell (Photography - BA [Hons], 4th year ).

One Pound Coin by Lara was a £1 coin which had been melted down and recast into a perfect cube. Lara’s work deals with value – both material and immaterial – and how value is attached to things.

“The idea was to take an object which is synonymous with value and transform it whilst keeping it materially the same,” said Lara, “nothing was added, nothing was lost, but by changing its form you’re able to change the value of the object, too.”

“I’m surprised,” Lara said of winning the prize, “It’s very simple, in both its concept and its final state.”

For the upcoming Degree Show, Lara will be presenting a body of work which will include the winning piece.

Gordon Brennan, Director of Undergraduate Studies in the School of Art, spoke during the prize-giving about art prizes. “As well as being a competition, art prizes can also be about creating a sense of community,” he said, “When you finish at art college, there will be competitions and art prizes out there, and you can pick and choose which ones might be relevant to you and your work, but something that should be maintained when you leave is the community you’ve built here, as witnessed during the installation of the exhibition.”

Mark Astaire has said of setting up the prize that he felt it was, “a way of motivating and helping people in the early stages of their career.”

“I was a student at Edinburgh University myself, and I always thought the Art College was an amazing place,” said Mark, “I think we benefit a lot from the creative people in our world.”

Mark Astaire addressing the shortlisted students at a prize-giving ceremony in the Old College building
Edinburgh College of Art
Mark Astaire addressing the shortlisted students at a prize-giving ceremony in the Old College building
"One Pound Coin" by Lara Hirst
Image courtesy of the artist
"One Pound Coin" by Lara Hirst