On 2 April 2018, 20 Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) students set up work in the Fire Station for this year’s Astaire Art Prize exhibition. The work had been shortlisted from an original list of 80 entries, and they all stood a chance of winning the £3,000 prize, or one of the £750 runner-up prizes.

This is the fifth 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 West Court in the ECA Main Building.

The winner was Lauren Holehouse, a third-year Sculpture – BA (Hons) student. The runners up were Jessica Gasson (Fine Art – MA [Hons]), Hugo Harris (Fine Art – MA [Hons]), and Siobhan McLaughlin (Fine Art – MA [Hons]).

Lauren’s work, Fulfil its creed, is a model of a deflated American football made from plaster and paint. It is inspired by the political activism of Colin Kaepernick and other athletes who have opted to “take a knee” during the national anthem to protest systemic police brutality against black people. Kaepernick is now an unsigned player, most likely owing to his activism.

“I think, as a student, it can be easy to get frustrated with news you hear, but you feel like there’s not really anything you can do about it,” said Lauren, “But I realised that I am here at the college, and I have the facilities and the skills to be able to at least have a reaction to it.”

“I’m conscious that I don’t want to be another white person shouting into the void, but equally I think it’s important to shout with these people, rather than working in the opposite direction.”

"Fulfil its creed" by Lauren Holehouse
Edinburgh College of Art
"Fulfil its creed" by Lauren Holehouse

“I cast it deflated because I thought it might represent how he’s feeling. He has taken a major risk and stood up for himself and those he wants to represent, and rather than being uplifted, he’s been cut off from the game.”

Lauren Holehouse, Sculpture – BA (Hons)

The work took seven weeks to complete because of the complexity of making a three-part mould.

“I cast it deflated because I thought it might represent how he’s feeling. He has taken a major risk and stood up for himself and those he wants to represent, and rather than being uplifted, he’s been cut off from the game.”

“I’m beyond happy to have won the award,” said Lauren, “I won’t have to work next year, which will be a major advantage – things won’t take as long to make because I’ll be able to use that time at university. It’ll definitely be a massive help.”

The piece is part of a larger body of work looking at contemporary injustices, including the Harvey Weinstein allegations and the subsequent #MeToo movement.

The judging taking place in the Fire Station
Edinburgh College of Art
The judging taking place in the Fire Station
The shortlisted artists for the Astaire Prize 2018
Edinburgh College of Art
The shortlisted artists for the Astaire Prize 2018

“I thought it was an outstanding collection, from great craftsmanship to great conceptual work,” said Mark Astaire, the founder of the prize, on the exhibition, “The winner created a wonderful piece of work. It was beautifully executed, and it was also very powerful.”

“I think that art is incredibly important to our society, and that those people who are art students are very brave – putting yourself and your work out there to be judged is something that most people don’t do,” said Mark, “I think if I can help at the margins, to encourage them to go on producing work and to feel good about the things that they’re doing, for me that is the real inspiration behind the prize.”