I have once again organised the Sovereign Art Foundation’s (SAF) Student Prize Portugal, a prize for secondary school students which has been running since 2017.
This is a prestigious art prize that provides 30 finalists the opportunity to showcase their art to an international audience and to win monetary prizes for themselves and their schools.
Their work is exhibited alongside the art from the Sovereign Portuguese Art Prize aimed at professional artists and which was launched in 2021 to increase the international exposure of artists in Portugal.
SAF was established in 2003 by Howard Bilton and Tiffany Pinkstone who wanted to promote contemporary Asian art in Hong Kong, not only to celebrate artists but to use the platform for programmes that use art therapy to make a difference to disadvantaged children. In 20 years, the foundation has raised over 11 million USD and helped over 20,000 children, which is an incredible achievement.
Howard is the founder and chairman of The Sovereign Group and of Howard’s Folly Wine, in Estremoz, whose wine labels often feature artwork from the Prize or from young beneficiaries of the Foundation’s programmes. A portion of the income from Howard’s Folly is also donated to the Sovereign Art Foundation.
Tiffany is SAF’s director and launched the ‘Make It Better’ programme that provides expressive arts workshops for children living in some of Hong Kong’s most disadvantaged communities.
With its own team of professional art therapists and facilitators, the programme currently assists over 200 children. The workshops allow the children to express their thoughts, emotions and feelings through the creative process whilst improving and developing their social, cognitive and fine motor skills and increasing their self-esteem and confidence.
In addition, caregivers are given mental health support and educators are provided with the skills and knowledge to implement expressive art activities in class.
There are now three professional prizes running for contemporary artists in Asia, Africa and Portugal and 12 Student Prizes held worldwide. All raise funds to support expressive arts programmes for children while giving artists cash awards and access to a global audience. All the artists have the opportunity of winning a Judges Prize or the Public Vote Prize.
Funds for SAF’s charity work are raised through the sale of the professional and student finalists’ art whereby half the money goes to the artists themselves and half reverts to SAF. In Portugal, the funds revert to Associação SAF, the Portuguese branch of the Foundation.
The student art is currently being exhibited in the gallery at Howard’s Folly and it will next be exhibited in Lisbon at the Sociedade Nacional das Belas Artes (SNBA) alongside the 30 finalists from the Professional Prize Portugal.
The SNBA, founded in 1901, is the oldest representative association for arts in Portugal and it is based in an early 20th century building with a huge French style 50m x 15m salon, created through the dream of painters returning from Paris and Barbizon at the end of the 19th century.
Various generations of artists have exhibited here, making the venue part of the history of art in Portugal. Since its formation and still available today are free art classes and the space is also used for meeting artists, conferences and festive events.
It is a privilege for the Sovereign Prizes to be exhibited in such a historic location and an incredible opportunity for the talented young artists.
The SNBA exhibitions run from November 28 to December 16. On the 28th, the winners of both Judges Prizes will be announced during an evening awards ceremony. The prizes are substantial, with the professional artist winning €25,000 and the student winning €500 and another €1,500 for their school.
The public are encouraged to vote for their favourite art. Voting will be closed on December 16 for the professionals and December 31 for the students, after which the winners of this category will be announced. The professional artist wins €2,000 and the student winner will receive €300 for themselves and €800 for their school. You can vote for both Prizes at SovereignArtFoundation.com and, by voting for the professional prize, you could win two cases of Howard’s Folly Sonhador wine!
Past funds raised by the Portuguese Student Prizes have been donated to local Algarve institutions such as Neci in Praia da Luz and Apexa in Guia for their art workshops aimed at teenagers and adults. The prize has also supported art workshops run by artists David Trubshaw and Gudrun Bartels in local schools.
SAF are delighted to now be working with Alessandra Bonder who has a diploma from the Metafora Art Therapy School in Barcelona. Alessandra has worked previously with refugee children in Lisbon and is currently running an expressive arts programme at the Centro Interpretativo do Boneco, in Estremoz, which is aimed at children aged 3–8.
In the bi-monthly workshops, the children who have been especially selected by social workers, in partnership with the programme, will be able to experiment and create their own art either as a group or individually, through a variety of medium which will include painting, drawing, role play, pottery etc.
Alessandra explained: “I plan each workshop with a psychoanalytic approach that is dynamic and open minded and geared individually to each child’s needs. The children will be allowed to express themselves through different art forms in a safe environment, which will enable them to further develop their skills and to build their confidence.”
It is currently an intimate group setting, where the children develop and grow together, however, it is hoped that the workshops will expand next year.
“After each session, I have to assess how each child worked and plan individually for their next session based on their reactions and engagement in creating an art piece. Some of the children have special needs and so it is important to plan for their abilities and I cannot have a set group programme.
“Currently, there are just seven children in the workshops, so I can give them one on one attention and also focus on group activities based on what is best for each child to make their own journey.”
Do visit the Sovereign Art Foundation’s website and see the finalists’ work from all the Sovereign’s prizes. You can donate to the foundation or even bid on the artwork.
I already have several art pieces gracing my walls at home that my husband bought to support the students each year and they are also a reminder of my involvement in the prizes as we are proud to support such a worthwhile cause.
So now you know!
Isobel Costa works full time and lives on a farm with a variety of pet animals! In her spare time, she enjoys photography, researching and writing.