We speak to Victoria Sandler of the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board, to discuss the latest Diana Nelson Award in celebration of artistic talent from across the community.
Members of the Jewish and wider North Leeds community are taking up their brushes once again to take part in this year’s Diana Nelson award. Run by the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board, the competition brings together the talent of amateur artists of all capabilities, presenting their work under the roof of the Marjorie and Arnold Ziff Community Centre each May.
Now in its 17th edition, the award has encouraged competing artists to produce work based on the themes of the life under Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and her Platinum Jubilee this year. This year’s participants have until the 29th April to deliver their finished work to the MAZCC.
“There has always been a close tie between the North Leeds community and the royal family, and the choice of theme this year had a fast and positive response,” said the event’s organiser Victoria Sandler. “We give the participants around two months to work on their pieces following a set brief that includes certain canvas sizes and art mediums to use.
“There is always such a high standard overall with entries every year, which is absolutely incredible to see. A lot of participants come
to us during their retirement years when they have more time to develop their skills. It’s clear that there’s a lot of hidden talent across the community, and we’re delighted to continue running the award which celebrates this.”
Most participants of the award have been the LJWB’s own art class students, who meet up at the MAZCC to take part in workshops and classes to practice their art skills together and take inspiration from each other.
“The LJWB runs two art classes a week for its members, with Sandra Taylor taking the lead after Val Bel’s retirement after 47 years,” said Victoria. “It remains one of the board’s most popular activities, which sees new faces and regular participants return for each session to hone their skills.”
The Diana Nelson award was originally launched by Martin Nelson in memory of his late wife, who oversees the judging for each competition. Born and raised in London, Diana Nelson moved to Leeds in 1969, taking up a Fine Art and Design course at Leeds College of Art in 1988. She then studied for a bachelor’s in Fine Art and masters at Leeds Metropolitan University before working as an artist and gallery workshop leader
for venues including Leeds City Art Gallery, the Mercer Gallery in Harrogate, West Yorkshire Playhouse, and Manchester Jewish Museum. An enthusiastic and dedicated art mentor, her workshops included drawing, papermaking, printmaking, and art appreciation for all age and ability groups.
Since its inception, the Diana Nelson award has earned a growing reputation with the wider Leeds arts network, with local artists and curators taking part to judge the contender’s entries. Getting together over Zoom, abstract artist Janet Williams and Headrow Gallery owner Maxwell Roberts oversaw the prizes for last year’s award, based on the theme of lockdown memories.
“We always pick a topical theme each
year that might hold special meaning for our artists,” said Victoria. “Last year’s focus of the lockdown during the pandemic turned out some spectacular results based on everyone’s individual experiences. Practicing art takes a lot of time and dedication, and there’s usually a feeling that the piece you’re working on can never be fully finished and needs more added to it.
“The lockdown period ended up being a real comfort for our artists, as they could have that extra time to hone their skills, try out different art forms and methods, and really develop their talent.”
All entries for this year’s Diana Nelson Award will be exhibited at the MAZCC on the 15th May. For more details on submission format and to register your entry, contact Victoria at Victoria.firstname.lastname@example.org