First Class 23

First Class 22 exhibition opening 5 Feb 23-058.jpg

In 2024, The Museum of Art and Culture yapang continues to honour and recognise the voice of our local youth with the distinguished First Class 23 exhibition. 

This highly anticipated exhibition has built a strong reputation as a place where ideas, beliefs and creativity intersect. The students represent schools from Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Central Coast and the Hunter, and their work reflects the scope and depth of the NSW HSC Visual Arts syllabus. Each year participants create artworks that explore their world and position themselves within it.

The depth of talent, skill and imagination is evident throughout the exhibition. It is truly exciting to see such a diverse approach to artmaking practice on display in a professionally curated gallery setting. Selected from submissions produced in 2023, First Class 23 is a measure of the current zeitgeist they are experiencing. There is commentary on gender, identity, the fragility of life and the strength of our individuality. There are quiet works, where silence allows the audience space to reflect, and loud works where life is celebrated. Some works explore personal connections to place and people, reflecting the importance of relationships. Other works search for meaning when these connections change. Themes of nature and climate, memory and love, chaos and humour are all spoken through a personal lens and delivered through the vehicle of visual language.

First Class 23 provides a platform for students to speak their truth and their conviction is heard throughout the exhibition. The exhibition curators, Chris Denzin and Karen Gilbertson, applaud the sensitivity, inventiveness and creativity of these artists in realising their vision. 

Artist Interviews

Jenbae McIlroy

Madeline Lilley

Elle Vitnell

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Airlie Butterworth

Jiawen Shi

Alessandra Martinelli
Joop Van de Wijgaart

Anna Crutcher

Justin Dawson

Archie Brennan

Kasey Tudor

Bella Crouch

Kayla Penfold

Brydie Hoad

Keeley Smith

Charli Balzer

Kyle Bangoy 

Chelsea Brohier

Lia Trueman

Chloe Chiong

Liana Ponsen

Connie Huang

Maddeline Dawson

 Danyella Yates

 Madeline Hayes

Ella Cupitt

Madeline Lilley

Elle Vitnell

Mia Byrne

Emma Berghout

Mikayla de Lacy Peek

Emma Cox

Milly Hampson

Evelina Moloney

Molly Bell

Freya Vial

Olivia Watson

Gemma Staveley

Paige Farnant

Georgia Thiveos

Poppy Grady

Grey Bock

Samantha Angulo

Hannah Brown

Samuel Troyer

Hannah Moreau

Shany Eidels

Isabella Luo

Sienna Gillespie

Isobelle Zwart

Sophie Colla

Jack White

Talia Falconer

Jasmine Seeney

Talullah Gardiner

Jenbae McIlroy

Tylah Bligh

School tours

If you are a school teacher or educator and would like to organise a student group tour of the First Class 23 exhibition please use the booking link below.

School group bookings

Curator Biographies

Karen Gilbertson

Karen Gilbertson has been a practicing Visual Arts teacher for many years teaching in Sydney, the Hunter and Canada. She has 13 years’ experience as Visual Arts Marker, encompassing pilot and senior marking.

Karen has worked for the NSW Education Standards Authority on a variety of committees including the Grade Samples committee and Test Development committee. She has presented Visual Arts & Design Educators Association seminars and Higher School Certificate Study Days. She organises 'Moofest' - Merewether High School’s annual short film festival.

Karen is a keen drawer, painter, printmaker, and gallery visitor.

Chris Denzin

Chris Denzin previously worked in Sydney and the Hunter as a Visual Arts teacher for 25 years. He has 14 years’ experience as a Marker, Pilot and Senior Marker for the Higher School Certificate. 

He maintains an interest in the arts as a painter and sculptor and enjoys recreational sailing. 


  • Saturday, 10 February 2024 | 09:00 AM - Sunday, 07 April 2024 | 03:00 PM


Museum of Art and Culture (MAC), 1A First Street, Booragul 2284, Booragul 2284  View in Google Maps

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