Reg says goodbye to his beloved Bentley Art Prize
By BREE PRICE
AS the last of the winners of this year's Bentley Art Prize were announced on Saturday, small tears filled the corners of Reg Hartley's eyes.
Every year for the last 21 years, the 83-year-old and his wife Phyllis have coordinated the art prize, but this year was their last.
"I'm happy. I just hope the art prize keeps going, but I don't expect them to do as good a job," Mr Hartley said with a smile.
"I felt I didn't have enough energy to do the job properly."
The Hartley's extended family travelled from as far as Belgium and the USA to experience the Hartley's last art prize held at Bentley Hall.
The official winners presentation on Saturday was opened by the Hartley's grand-daughter Anne, of Texas in the US, who played the national anthem on the violin.
Senator Sandy McDonald also travelled from Tamworth to attend.
He said the Bentley Art Prize was a testament to the North Coast and congratulated the Hartleys and all the volunteers who organised the prize each year.
There were about 400 entries this year, with the Open Art Prize going to Kyogle artist Ross Tamlin.
Mr Hartley said he never thought he would still be organising the art prize 21 years after he created it to recognise the many talented artists on the Northern Rivers.
"I've just bowled along," he said.
"I had a good partner ? Phyllis is really good at public relations.
"The artists are a temperamental lot and Phyllis, she can talk to anyone, whereas I'm an Aries and can be a bit abrupt and want to get on with the job.
"I'm very proud of the achievement and all the friends I've got.
"I'd like to say I appreciate all the artists who stuck to me over the years and the hall committee."
Mr Hartley now plans to devote his time to his seven sheds of cactus plants.
"My sheds are full of cacti and they've been neglected and are out of hand," he said.
Bentley resident, author and artist Helen Trustum will be taking over as the co-ordinator of the Bentley Art Prize.
But Mr Hartley said the art prize hadn't seen the last of him and his wife just yet, they would be back next year ? just to enjoy the artwork.