PREMIER ARTISTS: Mary Valley Artslink president Heinke Butt with 2014 Open winner Brent Harvey, and (above right) the winning entry in the 2014 Youth section by Lorien Dalcastello.
PREMIER ARTISTS: Mary Valley Artslink president Heinke Butt with 2014 Open winner Brent Harvey, and (above right) the winning entry in the 2014 Youth section by Lorien Dalcastello. Contributed

Entries open for the Mary Valley Arts Festival

WHEN the local art competition outgrew its space at the Mary Valley Show, the bold decision was made to break away from the annual agricultural exhibition and create a new art festival in Imbil.

That was 15 years ago and with Bendigo Bank's Gympie branch returning as the major sponsor, as well as an expanded youth section with $2000 in prizes, the Mary Valley Art Festival has not looked back.

Founder and then show secretary Jan Watt is justifiably proud of the festival and describes it as a grassroots incubator for all levels of art ability.

"Some of our artists started with us, and have gone on to develop their own careers, with some returning as judges over the 15 years," Ms Watt said.

She believes the festival's secret is its integrity and inherent friendliness.

"The festival is a highly respected and professionally delivered event."

It is pulled together by a hardworking team of volunteers who do everything from marketing to hanging and database entry, as well as cooking for the awards evening.

That team is now headed by Heinke Butt, who holds an MA in Cross Disciplinary Art and Design. She was thrilled to welcome Imbil philanthropist Bruce Dahl as the major sponsor for the expanded Bush Haven Youth Art Awards in 2015.

"We offer great prize money, which hits $6300 in total for the festival this year.

"We have gone from a simple youth section where all ages to 18 competed against each other for a small prize, to a $2000 section with $1150 in prizes for the Youth Open ($400 cash plus a two-day workshop at the Brisbane Institute of Art).

"That's an amazing award for a country art festival but Bruce is truly invested in encouraging our youth to try their hand at art."

Last year, the festival drew an increased number of entries from the Sunshine Coast, including paintings from one of South-East Queensland's finest artists, Brent Harvey, who won the Open, Animalia and Portrait awards and more than $2000 prize money.

At the time, he said these local festivals were important because they encouraged people who want to entertain through art.

"The bigger galleries can be daunting but these festivals give artists a lot of interaction with the public - that's the most important part of it. They give artists the encouragement to pursue something they might otherwise never do."

Entry forms will be distributed this week or you can download them from the website. Entries close on June 15.

Inquiries to 5484 3010, email mvartfest@gmail.com or visit http://maryvalleyartfestival.com.au

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