It went ahead virtually for the second year running, but the upside for the Blue Fringe Festival was that the experience was made available to more people than ever before.
The annual Blue Fringe Art and Literature Festival was held in October to co-incide with Mental Health Month.
In its 29th year, Blue Fringe promotes the benefits of creativity for mental wellbeing and resilience for everyone. The festival showcases original work in art, sculpture, textiles, photography, poetry and stories.
Blue Fringe entry is open to adults with a lived experience of mental illness. Youth entry is open to high school age children in celebration of mental wellbeing.
This year's festival included a program of free online art and literature workshops, a 3D gallery environment, online voting in art and literature, and a livestream of the winners.
"When we launched online for the first time last year, we saw the message of Blue Fringe reach a much broader audience, and the work was shared with and enjoyed by so many more people." said Nikki Boys, Blue Fringe committee member and community development worker at Belong Blue Mountains.
"This year art and literature entries increased by more than 80 per cent with more youth entries than ever before, and a whole lot of people who had never been involved before participated in our online workshops.
"Not only does this mean that the collection of work and the exhibition experience is more exciting and inspiring than ever, it also means that Blue Fringe is helping more and more people have positive conversations about mental health."
Through its life, Blue Fringe has showcased the talents of thousands of poets, artists, photographers and storytellers offering monetary prizes for excellence. For many, it's the first time they have shared their work publicly, and for some, the experience is life changing.
This year's Blue Fringe Art Award winners were dominated by portraits and places. The winner of the Blue Mountains City Council Overall Art Award was photographer Bridgette Gourdain for her beautiful photo of a girl named 'Zoe'. Three other artists claimed the top art prizes with their compelling portraits -Jayke Burgess won the Packer's Prize, Bunny Griffin the art category, and Virginia Bucknell, took out the Maurice Brady Art Award.
The photography award was won by Stephen Georgiou for his beautiful image of a misty bush path in the entitled 'Escaping Lockdown'. The youth award was won by Elijah Mac for his inspired image of the view from his trampoline, and the Youth art winner was Miriam Roediger for a captivating desert-scape called 'Unseen'. Other winners were Lee Mitchell (sculpture), Lee Morris (textiles), Heidi Willingham (youth sculpture) and Belle Blandin de Chalain (youth textiles).
Judge Zoe Harrison, Board member of Varuna, the National Writer's House, said there was a high standard of written work particularly in the youth categories.
"The power of [the] writing will indeed leave a lasting impression in the way that great writing does," she said.
Literary winners were Eleanor Maddock, Glen Fisher and Kathryn B (poetry) and Louise Loomes (short stories). Youth winners were Tamsyn McGrouther (short stories) and Anna Krywyj and Tehya Holmes (poetry).
Blue Fringe itself also received a worthy award during October. The Mental Health Association of NSW awarded Blue Fringe the winner of the Mental Health Matters Community Initiative Award in recognition of the impact it has had in the community.
The Blue Fringe 2021 exhibition and book can be viewed at www.bluefringe.org.au