THREE years ago the prize for best art work at Beef Week was $50.
Last year the Northern Cooperative Meat Company had a $75 art prize in the Beef Week Art Exhibition.
This year they have raised the stakes with a $300 prize.
Things have changed dramatically from that first exhibition in a warehouse next to the Chinese restaurant where 17 paintings were hung on wire coat hangers and lit by neon lights.
Now more than 150 entries are expected and they will be hung professionally at the Casino Cultural and Community Centre on May 24 for the official opening.
The Richmond Valley Art Prize is worth $3500, donated by Northern Rivers Physiotherapy in Casino. The total prize pool is $5000.
Exhibition curator Richard Van Haeren said having an art prize during Casino Beef Week was about celebrating the creativity of artwork and sharing it with the community.
"As a forum it is the same thing as leading the prize bull up the street," Mr Van Haeren said.
He has "enormous respect" for the thousands of hours that go into the work of the artists.
This year's judge is Arts Northern Rivers chief executive Peter Wood.
The criteria for judging is different this year with a focus on "the maker's mark".
What this means, Mr Van Haeren explained, was: "The representation of the indelible way the artists makes their mark. It is individual for every person who makes a piece of work.
"Every single person leaves a thumb print or DNA on the page (or canvas), that leaves the maker's mark."
Another way to explain it was that "someone has to be moved emotionally to create the work", he said.
The Richmond River Express Examiner will for the first time offer an art prize of $100. The artists must reside in the paper's readership patch to win.
WHEN: Closing date for entries is May 17.
COST: $20 per item to enter Richmond Valley Art Prize worth $3500. $10 per item for open age, $5 for 16 years and under
OPENS: May 24 at 6pm at the Casino Cultural and Community Centre.
ENTER: email info@ casinobeefweek.com.au or go to www.casinobeef week.com.au