Page last updated at 12:15 GMT, Saturday, 18 April 2009 13:15 UK

Keller art prize winner announced

Some of the paintings from Rich Curtis' Sight Unseen
Some of the paintings from Rich Curtis' Sight Unseen, which won the prize

A major art prize, set up in Scotland with funds donated by Helen Keller, has been won by an artist from the area in American where she grew up.

Rich Curtis, from the Shoals area of Alabama, was one of more than 150 artists who submitted work for the Helen Keller International Prize.

His work - Sight Unseen - received the £1,500 prize and a trophy at a special ceremony in Glasgow on Saturday.

His 20 textured paintings were designed to be felt as well as seen.

Mr Curtis worked with various individuals from the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, playing them music and asking them to respond by drawing marks on paper.

Ms Keller became the first deafblind person to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree and helped changed the perception of deafblind people.

She visited Scotland in 1933 as part of an awareness-raising tour which took her and her teacher Annie Sullivan around the world.

'Wonderful display'

Ms Sullivan helped develop a form of sign language which allowed Keller - who was deafblind - to communicate again.

While in Scotland, Keller received an honorary degree from the University of Glasgow and set up the trust fund - through the sale of two bullocks - which was to be used for the interests of other deafblind people.

Sense Scotland became trustees of the fund in 1989, transforming it first into an international essay competition and then into the current multi-media art competition.

The competition is run biennially and is open to both professional and non-professional artists.

The work is judged anonymously - with separate prizes for children's art and for runners-up.

Runners-up this year included a website called Dummy Jim by artist Matt Hulse from Scotland and Portrait 24 by Jean Compton, also from Scotland.

The under-16 prize went to Medusa - a collaboration between Shawlands Academy and Hazelwood School in Glasgow - which used recycled materials in a large sculptural piece.

"The Helen Keller International Award is a unique opportunity for artists from across the world to reflect on deafblindness and disability, through a range of artforms," said Gillian Morbey, chief executive of Sense Scotland.

"The work at the exhibition offers a wonderful display of creativity and ideas."

The exhibition runs at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and at Sense Scotland's Touchbase Centre in Glasgow until 4 May.

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