Bentley Art Prize's strength based in support of community

WHEN it first began 31 years ago, the Bentley Art Prize attracted up to 70 keen artists from around the region.

Today it has become one of the biggest events of its kind on the North Coast and boasts more than 700 entrants from near and far.

In 1985 Reg and Phyllis Hartley started the Bentley Art Prize as a way of raising funds for the Bentley Public Hall as well as giving little- known artists an opportunity to display their work.

Sadly Reg and Phyllis have since died, but their legacy lives on through the Bentley Art Prize, which continues to grow each year.

Helen Trustum has been the co-ordinator of the Bentley Art Prize for the past 11 years and says community support is what drives the event.

"It is a real community event and I think people just love the country atmosphere," Ms Trustum said.

"It is an event where the whole family can be involved, we often have mums and dads and their children enter and I think that's what it's all about.

"We have had plenty of entries come through already and many of them are new people who have never entered before."

The Bentley Art Prize now spans 14 categories made up of Drawing, Amateur Painting, In and Around Bentley, Art Other Than Painting, Golden Oldies and Student Paintings to name a few.

This year the total prize pool is the biggest it has been with $10,000 on offer thanks to both new and old sponsors.

This year's major sponsors include Richmond Dairies, Richmond Valley Council and Casino RSM Club, with each offering a $1000 prize for the winner of their respected sections which include the Richmond Valley Council Acquisition Painting, Richmond Dairies Open Painting Prize and the Casino RSM Club Acquisition Painting Prize.

Richmond Valley Council and Casino RSM Club will also display the winning paintings at their venues.

Each year a guest judge attends the event which this year will be Helen Grant, editor of Australian Artists Magazine while ABC radio weather aficionado Steve Symonds will be the special guest.

According to Ms Trustum, support from local sponsors will see the event continue.

"When you have an event like the Bentley Art Prize, it is a wonderful thing for the region and for bringing people together."

Artwork will be on display at Bentley Public Hall Friday July 31 from 7-9pm, Saturday August 1 from 9-5pm and Sunday August 2 from 9-3pm.

Entry forms are available around town or online and must be completed by July 22. Visit www.bentleyart -prize.com.au.