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Contemporary art plans for churches impress judges

One prize became three as the excitement and commitment of parishes to commission a new art work for their church caught the eye of the judges. Entries from St Andrew's, Plymouth (Exeter Diocese), The Good Shepherd, Kirk Sandall (Sheffield Diocese), and Wednesfield Team Ministry in Lichfield so impressed the judges in the Jerusalem Trust Prize for Commissioning New Art in Churches that they not only split the first prize in two but found the money to award a development grant as well.

"It has illustrated that the Church of England is alive and kicking in very different communities across the land," said Anne Sloman, Chair of the Church Buildings Council. "The heritage of the past which our churches are so fortunate to contain can sit very happily with the art of the present." Entries included parishes large and small, old and new, rural and urban from Cumbria to Cornwall.

From being a roofless shell after WWII, the historic Grade I listed church of St Andrew, at the heart of Plymouth, contains Piper stained glass win­dows. For the competition the parish explored ways of using a commission externally to enhance newly acquired space in front of the building. In collaboration with the City's Public Art Officer and art students the parish en­gaged in widespread community consultation. With the help of the £5000 share of the first prize, rather than 'simply considering a sculpture on two pillars at the entrance', something more dynamic will emerge.

The Good Shepherd, Kirk Sandall, the youngest, unlisted build­ing amongst the entries, is outside Doncaster in an area that suffers from deprivation, high unemploy­ment and industrial decline. The parish really wants to bring hope where there is currently little hope and engaged in the commis­sioning process with great deter­mination. Student involvement resulted in exciting school projects as well as a community art day. The resulting commission, a new window, is intended, with the help of its £5000 share of the first prize, to make the church more welcoming, enhancing its impact on the streetscape.

"One commission," said Bridget Cass, the judge from the Jerusalem Trust, "had an interesting aim - to unite the three congregations in the parish by developing an artwork that would not be site specific. It is a commission that will not necessarily be permanent but it was such an exciting idea that the judging panel felt that we should break our rules and award a special development prize."

The three churches of Wednesfield Team Ministry has a varied ethnic and social mix. 18th-century St Thomas is listed Grade II while neither St Chad's nor St Alban's is listed. A wide range of consultation and children-focused events have led to plans for a commission that, now with the help of a £1000 development award, will help to bring a sense of unity across the parish through some form of portable artwork. Artists will be invited to respond to the vibrant yet dispersed nature of the parish's worshipping community.


Information about the 11 finalists is available at