Gosford Art Prize was the first major art prize to be held in Gosford and continues to be the most popular art prize on the Central Coast.
The Gosford Shire Art Prize began in 1970 as a feature of the first ‘Venetian Carnival’, an arts and tourism event which would become known as the annual ‘Festival of the Waters’ held between 1970 to 1986. It was organised by the Gosford branch of the Arts Council of NSW, an association for encouraging artistic expression and appreciation of the arts across the region. Councillor Jim Tarbox and arts advocate Phyllis Bennett were among a small group of members instrumental in staging the Prize at that time. Acclaimed artist Sir Russell Drysdale, a Central Coast resident, was the first judge of the Prize and served as its Patron until 1979. Drysdale was most likely responsible for the appointment of other high-profile judges such as Daniel Thomas, then Curator of the Art Gallery of NSW and James Gleeson, Director of the National Gallery of Australia.
In the early years organisers struggled from year to year to find a suitable exhibition space. It was held at first in the Gosford Library, and subsequently in empty shops on Mann St, the Masonic Hall, the Gosford Music Society Hall, Laycock St, and even an open-air exhibition at the Gosford Waterfront. It was set up by local volunteer groups such as the Apex Club, the Lions Club, the Central Coast Art Society and the Central Coast Potters Society who were invited to manage the pottery section of the exhibition.
After a brief lapse from 1987 to 1990, the Prize was revived in 1991 by the Multi Arts Confederation (M.A.C.) headed by arts advocate Margaret Hardy. It was run from 1991 to 1993 as part of a one-day arts festival in Kibble Park, before finding its home at the newly constructed Arts Centre at Caroline Bay completed in 1994. From 1994 to 1997 it was known as the Gosford Sister City Art Prize before being renamed the Frog Hollow Gosford City Art Exhibition 1999.
Then in 2000 the Gosford Art Prize shifted house to the Gosford Regional Gallery, operated by the staff of the Gosford City Council and the Central Coast Council (following Council amalgamation in 2016). The Gosford Art Prize has been a fixture of the annual program of the Gallery ever since. Over the last 20 years it has rapidly expanded with an increasing number of entries and prize money. From the 48 paintings originally entered in 1970 the Prize now attracts well over 500 entries each year from around Australia