TWO hundred and fifty three artists, 377 artworks and a buzzing crowd.
The Gladstone Regional Art Gallery and Museum was packed for the official opening of the Rio Tinto Martin Hanson Memorial Art Awards.
It was standing room only, for late arrivals with every chair in the house taken on Saturday night.
GRAGM curator Jo Duke, said it was spectacular every year to "look out on a sea of people who are passionate about art".
Of the exhibition itself she said, "the colours are extraordinary the visual conversations that are happening are amazing, they make my soul and my heart fill with joy".
Gladstone Region Mayor Matt Burnett and member for Gladstone, Glenn Butcher both spoke at the launch, before QAL general manager Mike Dunstan officially opened the exhibition.
Then it was crunch time, with awards judge Patricia Hoffie stepping up to announce the winners.
There were 18 awards up for grabs and six highly commended certificates.
The coveted Martin Hanson Memorial Art Award (prize money $15,000) was awarded to Cairns based artist Julie Poulsen.
The John Anderson Memorial Acquisitive Award went to Tasmanian artist Penny Mason.
Local artists did not miss out with Kate Simons, Rosemary Anderson, Beryl Wood, and Claudia Wehrli all being acknowledged.
Ms Wehrli entered several items in the awards but her winning work was a delicate sculpture titled 'Coral Bowl.'
"I'm very happy," she said. "It's a new direction for me, (making sculptures rather than utilitarian items).
Ms Hoffie said the judging was not easy and she, as an artist herself, knew how much work went into the art on display.
She used to be a teacher in Gladstone with the Australian Flying Art school and said she could see the "considerable difference" art had made to the region.
The exhibition is on display until Thursday December 7. People can vote for the QAL People's Choice at the gallery, using QAL's iPad voting kiosks.