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One of Australia’s leading sculptors Inge King AM and gallery director and arts educator Elizabeth “Betty” Churcher AO are being honoured with two of Australia’s most prestigious visual arts awards.

The Australia Council for the Arts will present Mrs King with its Visual Arts Emeritus Award and Mrs Churcher with its Visual Arts Emeritus Medal at a ceremony in Sydney today.

Prominent sculptor, Inge King AM is receiving the $40,000 Visual Arts Emeritus Award for her highly acclaimed works and pivotal role in raising the profile of modern sculpture in this country.

As an arts educator, gallery director and media presenter, Betty Churcher AO is being awarded the $10,000 Visual Arts Emeritus Medal for her contribution to the understanding and appreciation of the visual arts by all Australians.

Professor Ted Snell AM, Chair of the Australia Council’s Visual Arts Board, hailed the exceptional achievements of Ms King and Ms Churcher.

“The Visual Arts Emeritus Award and Medal are two of the most prestigious career achievement awards in Australian contemporary visual arts, honouring the contributions of outstanding figures from the sector’ he said.

“Both Inge and Betty are leaders who have raised the standard and consciousness of visual arts in Australia. Their influence resonates nationally and internationally and we are pleased to be able to recognise their exceptional work.”

Mrs King has been at the forefront of developing non-figurative sculpture in Australia. She was a foundation member of the Centre Five Group, devoted to raising the professional standards of Australian sculpture in the 1950s and 1960s. Many of her large scale works are found in public plazas, including Forward Surge, 1974 at the Victorian Arts Centre and on numerous university campuses. Inge has held over 26 solo exhibitions including a retrospective at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1992, and has participated in over 60 group shows in London, New York, Australia and New Zealand.

“The Visual Arts Emeritus Award recognises Inge’s pivotal role in raising the profile of modern sculpture in this country,” Professor Snell said.

Ms Churcher is a pioneer for women and the arts as an art educator, media presenter and gallery director. She was the first woman to lead a tertiary institution, as Dean of School of Art and Design at the Phillip Institute of Technology, Victoria between 1982 and 1990. She was also the first woman to direct a state art gallery, at the Art Gallery of Western Australia between 1987 and 1990. Betty was appointed Director of the National Gallery of Australia between 1990 and 1997, where she oversaw its expanding public appeal and rise as an institution of national and international cultural significance. She is an ABC television presenter and author of numerous award-winning books.

“The Visual Arts Medal recognises Betty’s pioneering vision for the arts and her role in advocating for its appreciation by all Australians,” Professor Snell said.

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