FOR many years culture has been almost a dirty word in St Helens.

Public art tended to be flights of ducks pegged to the living room wall next to that luminous print of an oriental woman.

Recently, however, our town has been at the centre of a real resurgence, with Dream winning huge critical acclaim, and Anthony Gormley’s Field of Dreams featuring in the Olympic programme.

Their success has helped change the stereotypical image of St Helens life as consisting mainly of booze, bingo, rugby and pitbulls.

This year’s St Helens Open Art Competition shows how the cultural landscape of St Helens is being redrawn as a place where high value is placed on artistic merit.

More than 150 artists have submitted 240 art works for the event, the best of which are being showcased at an exhibition in the World of Glass running until November 17.

Stephen Brown’s oil paint on linen portrait – titled Dad – won acclaim from judges and earned him the lion’s share of the £2,000 prize in this year’s competition.

Second prize went to Peter Drought with his black and white Langdale Pikes photograph, while Richard Stinton’s oil on canvas painting, Sara Smile, took third place.

This year’s competition attracted more young artists, with organisers seeing a corresponding increase in the volume of high quality 3D work.

The competition was open to all levels of ability, from amateur artists to art students and professionals, aged 16 upwards.

All art disciplines are represented, including ceramics, digital, drawing, glass, mixed media, painting, photography, needlework and sculpture.

The annual competition, organised by St Helens Council’s Arts Service, has a new home this year.

It moved to the larger World of Glass venue, where the exhibition will be housed across all of the gallery spaces including Gallery One, Level One and on the mezzanine floor The Godfrey Pilkington Art Gallery.

The exhibition is open to the public at The World of Glass until Saturday, November 17. Visitors will also have the opportunity to vote for their winning piece in the St Helens Star People’s Choice Award.

Category prize winners:
Portrait – Laura E Quinn (Self Portrait); Landscape – Rita Jolley (View to Caleb’s Wood); Drawing – Steven A Douras (George);
Digital – Gareth Jackson (6148 Painting in Sequential Order); Abstract – Barry Cooper (Wheel); Olympics/Celebration – Adrian Massey (The Old Olympians).

Highly commended prizes: Kerry Lisa Davies (Piering Through the Light); George Drought (11-11); Alan Greenough (Walking the Dog Behind St Marks); Carol Miller (Landscape 40); Denise Dent (Raising the Surface); William Birchall (Maybe Todd Browning had a Point); Genevieve Pennington (Bright Eyes); Keith Bentham (Swedish Horses).