The Leonora Art Prize has a quite a long history which was inaugurated in 1989. It was the brainchild of Mr. Phil Wall, who was the Aboriginal Outreach Officer, employed by the Shire of Leonora at the very new Leonora Recreation Centre. Mr. Wall recognised the need for a cultural intervention in the small mining town, where the social life basically revolved around sport and the two popular hotels. He sought out like-minded people from the town and outlying pastoral stations, and together they set about creating an annual event which would endure for fourteen years. Of course, it would not have been possible without town support and sponsorship from local businesses and mining companies, of which there were many, surrounding Leonora at the time.
A time capsule, containing new and old memorabilia was also buried on the steps of the Recreation Centre to coincide with the inception of the Art Prize. It was donated by Mr. Eddie Willey, a past Leonora resident.
The State Member for Eyre, Mr. Julian Grill and his wife Lesley, representing the Premier’s office, which sponsored the major prize, along with renown writer Norma King, were notables on the opening night, which was a resounding success, culminating with a formal ball.
During the first few years of the Art Prize, some very big names were supporters of art and culture in Leonora. John Stringer, who was the curator for the Kerry Stokes Art Collection, was one of the judges, and spoke highly of the artists and the achievements of the committee. Janet Holmes a Court, also judged in the second year and took a local sculpture back to Perth for her museum.
Fourteen very successful years went by, but like all small country towns, people came and went, and eventually the workload overwhelmed the committee, whose numbers had dwindled over the years Sadly 2003 was the last Leonora Art Prize of that era.
It wasn’t until 2015 that another innovative person started seed planting ideas. Mr. Boyd Sprigg, a local contractor and long-time resident, like Phil Wall, he identified a gap in the social fabric of Leonora and a need to bring the community together in a creative sense. Fortunately for Boyd, his nephew Roderick and his wife Talitha, who were already immersed in the art world, came on board to lend a hand. Being artists themselves, the opportunity to create an artistic event was an irresistible challenge, which they both relished. With the addition of a handful of locals the Leonora Art Prize Inc. was launched once again.