Glen Smith was named as the 2021 Ipswich Citizen of the Year at the Ipswich Australia Day Awards on January 20.
Glen Smith was named as the 2021 Ipswich Citizen of the Year at the Ipswich Australia Day Awards on January 20.

Art champion gets top honour for tireless contribution

COMMUNITY champion Glen Smith never fails to see the bigger picture.

As president of ArtsConnect Ipswich, he is the driving force behind the dedicated group’s use of art to strengthen community ties and empower those in need of a hand up.

A luminary of the city’s art scene, Mr Smith has lived in Ipswich for 20 years and has run his top of town business the Vintage Advantage for a decade.

The Bundamba resident picked up a paintbrush again 10 years ago for the first time since school while taking care of his ailing father.

ArtsConnect, previously known as the Ipswich Art Council, has been operating in some form for the past 50 years.

It currently has about 100 members and plenty more supporters.

Mr Smith, 58, said the group connects local artists, provides a platform for new artists to shine and over the past four years has put more focus on raising funds for charities and community groups.

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“We raise funds and give people a voice, including those in minority groups,” he said.

“We build people’s careers and give them opportunities to earn funding through their art.

“It’s been pretty successful over the years.”

The group raises about $6000 each year to be spread to various groups in need.

Last year $3300 was raised for the Pine Mountain District Rural Fire Brigade in the wake of the devastating bushfires through a cent auction.

His role in making a significant difference to his community is why Mr Smith was named as the 2021 Ipswich Citizen of the Year at the Ipswich Australia Day Awards on Wednesday.

“I didn’t expect to win, I didn’t even write a speech,” he laughed.

“To me it is recognition of a lot of years of hard work and a bit of recognition that it’s working.

Pine Mountain District Rural Fire Brigade first officer Denis Mahon accepts a $3300 cheque from Glen Smith last year.
Pine Mountain District Rural Fire Brigade first officer Denis Mahon accepts a $3300 cheque from Glen Smith last year.

“I couldn’t do it without all my wonderful supporters and volunteers.

“It’s always been pretty amazing how the Ipswich community has stepped up to the mark.

“I think that’s why I love living in Ipswich.

“I don’t look at myself as an artist per se, more of a promoter of the arts. Every now and then I do win the odd art award.”

Mr Smith quit a finance job 10 years ago to look after his dad.

“I thought I can’t keep doing these finance jobs seven days a week,” he said.

“I quit that to take on a little shop in the city so I could be home and spend more time with dad.

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“After a period of time talking about the same TV programs I thought ‘what am I going to do while I’m talking to dad.’

“That’s why I took up the paintbrush again and started painting again.

“At that time my dad was my biggest fan and so everything I did was brilliant but I look back (now) and go, ‘Oh my God’.

“Spending time with my dad, it was the best time of my life actually.

“He’s no longer with me but I’m still doing the art and I’ve still got the shop.”

Ipswich mayor Teresa Harding praised Mr Smith’s contribution to the city.

“Over a decade ago Glen made the life changing decision to quit his 12-hour-a-day finance job,” she said.

“He picked up a paint brush for the first time since school, and our creative scene has been richer ever since.”

Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.