Maranoa's feathered friends flew to the top of the perch at an acclaimed new tourist attraction for the region launched on Saturday.
Set in an exhibition space between Roma's tree-lined Bungil Creek and the Warrego Highway, around 200 people attended the opening of Sculptures Out Back, an outdoor walk of sculpture art designed to enhance the region's tourism offerings.
The brainchild of Roma on Bungil Gallery members Ian and Anne Galloway and their sub-committee, 11 artworks were mounted for the inaugural year of the awards that aim to create a permanent precinct.
After the public viewing, Mr Galloway announced Baby Australian Magpie, created by renowned Victorian bird sculptor Lucy McEachern, as the winner of the $15,000 Santos acquisitive art prize.
The larger-than-life weathered bronze work has all the sass and pugnacity of a real juvenile, and will likely be permanently housed within the Maranoa Regional Council's environs, Mr Galloway said.
Ms McEachern's work is already familiar to Roma on Bungil art lovers, having won the Santos Acquisitive Sculpture Award a decade ago, in 2011.
The car-stopping, eye-catching couple of metal cockatoos making up the installation called A Bush Conversation has also found a permanent home at the precinct, winning the people's choice award for Chinchilla's Dion Cross, and the hearts of local art lovers.
Mr Cross, an auto electrician whose 3D sculptures are sprinkled throughout the south west - a Murray cod at St George, a bull at Mitchell, and an impression of the Hugh Sawrey painting The Man that Steadies the Lead, at Kogan - said this was his largest work to date.
"I was aiming for something eye-catching but not busy," he said.
His vision was to bring about a comparison to resilient 'cockies' and the need to keep the conversation going in the bush.
"A yarn in the back paddock can make a big difference," he said.
Mr Cross loved the idea of celebrating rural art and artists, and said it was already winning in its concept, judging by the social media comments from travellers planning to stop specially to view the work on display.
Toowoomba landscape designer Scott Forster received the emerging artist accolade and $500 for his ironbark, rock and rope creation titled Family Tree.
"Our people are known to be rugged, hard and strong with an enduring resilience, yet they also possess a gentle beauty in their caring natures, pride in their families, and support for each other," his statement said.
It's not something you might expect someone who spent the last four years working on log home building and timber framing on Vancouver Island, Canada to say, but his entry is influenced by a blend of building and creativity.
"I like working with timber and stone, their natural shapes, colours and contours," he said. "I like that it's not perfect."
Mr Forster said he was now already thinking of ideas for future competitions.
Fallen Maranoa Heroes
The Maranoa Artist prize of $5000 donated by the Maranoa Regional Council went to Mitchell's Kyle Mansfield for Wounded Heroes, a powerful scrap metal design that resonates with Roma's Heroes Avenue of bottle trees that commemorates its fallen WWI soldiers.
Mr Galloway described the inaugural event as a resounding success, both the calibre of artwork that had been attracted and as the instant drawcard it was proving to be with the driving public.
According to the artists' brief, the Maranoa region was looking to celebrate its distinctiveness and regional diversity with the concept.
"We'd like to combine this with the art trails of outback Queensland - the silo art, up to Blackall's outdoor art and the Lake Dunn Sculpture Trail at Aramac," Mr Galloway said.
"Art is your signature and Sculptures Out Back has created one for the Maranoa region.
"Roma's known for its saleyards, its races, its sporting events - it would be great to see signature sculptures as part of the Roma scene from now on."
- Street art accolades flow for regional Qld
- People's sign packs a punch
- Shining a light on Anzac Day in the west
Mr Galloway said Maranoa Mayor Tyson Golder had been very enthusiastic about the whole project, and the sub-committee was confident of running an annual event that would add to a permanent sculpture park.
Not even the iconic saleyards is out of bounds for the committee.
With up to 180 visitors taking tours each Tuesday, Mr Galloway said enhancing that precinct with creative interpretations of the bush way of life was on their radar.
All 11 exhibits will be on display at the eastern entrance of Roma until September 11.
Want daily news highlights delivered to your inbox? Sign up to the Queensland Country Life newsletter below.