They have won the prize ... now the pressure is on.

Fine Arts Whanganui - a collective of artists that only came together last year - has been challenged to produce an event that puts Whanganui on the map nationally.

On Wednesday night in a buzzing War Memorial Centre, they won the Den of Dragons competition initiated by Whanganui and Partners marketing manager Lyn Cheyne, scooping $15,000 worth of promotion, guidance and mentoring and the right to stage their event - the Visual Art Symposium - in October 2017.

The symposium is the idea of Fine Arts Whanganui's steering committee of Jane Toy, Marie Grice, Alys Davidson and Craig Hooker, with Ms Toy and Ms Grice making the successful presentation to four top events professionals who responded with some tough questioning of the concept before declaring it the winner.


Five other projects made the final, and they also impressed, giving the judges - or "dragons" - a difficult task in making their top choice.

Afterwards, Ms Toy admitted the heat was now on them to deliver.

"We didn't expect to win. Not because we were not confident in our proposal but because we were so nervous about the presentation that we thought we would let our idea down.

"Now that we have got this funding, we have to start preparing sponsorship packs and start promoting the event. We are looking for a naming rights sponsor."

Fine Arts Whanganui opened a gallery in Taupo Quay in November and during two weekends of the Open Artists Studios had nearly 4000 visitors through the door and impressive sales.

That provided the impetus to look for the next step which turned out to be the ambitious three-day symposium that saw off Wednesday night's challengers.

"We know we must start small as we have never done this before," Ms Toy said.

"But I researched the art deco event in Napier and that started very small - now it is a world-renowned event and that is our aim for Whanganui."

Ms Toy, a mixed media artists and abstract painter, said the symposium include lectures and guest speakers with broad appeal dealing with everything from running a gallery to curating, to investing in art - and possibly even art crime.

In tandem with this would be workshops where aspiring artists and hobbyists could get face-to-face with experts and develop their skills. There will also be a sizeable trade show in the memorial centre main hall with product demonstrations, art materials, services and businesses connected to visual art.

Ms Toy was confident the event would pulls visitors to Whanganui, boosting the local economy, and would grow over the years.

There was some wise advice from judge Petrina Maxwell, a successful Auckland events manager, who told them to have a five-year plan with a vision of how the event would look after that time; run the event as a business; and look to make a profit. "There's a lot of dollars to be made in events," she said.