Vale Colleen Ruth Anne Smith

CAM is indebted to our guides for the warm and intelligent welcome they give visitors of all ages. They are nimble in responding to the interests of visitors, including giving formal tours. CAM guides are a high functioning group of local volunteers who come from many walks of life. New guides undergo a rigorous training provided by the more experienced guides, and participate in professional development programs with other galleries across the state. Guides also provide important support to reception staff. Unfortunately, Guides have not been able to work at CAM due to the pandemic however, we look forward to their return in the not too distant future.

Our community was saddened to learn of the recent passing of Colleen Smith, one of CAM’s valued guides, who unexpectedly passed away last week following surgery. Judith Staudte, CAM Guides Training Coordinator, spoke to Colleen’s colleagues across the country to compose this tribute to Colleen’s skilful and longstanding contribution to the public understanding of art.

Colleen particularly loved this work by Clarice Beckett, Still Life (Marigolds), c.1929. Castlemaine Art Museum. Maude Rowe Bequest, 1937.

Vale Colleen Ruth Anne Smith

Colleen was our most experienced CAM guide. New Zealand born and educated, she first trained as a guide at the Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA) in 2006, then moved onto the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) for seven years when her family relocated to Victoria. She joined our guides in late 2016; initially she also kept up her guiding at NGV, until the long days of travel and presenting became too tiring.

At AGWA, Colleen organised and staffed the daily tours; she also developed a highly successful Art and Memory program. This involved either taking art materials into aged care facilities or bringing small groups of senior citizens into the gallery. Artworks had been selected by Colleen for careful analysis, especially those that could evoke memories for the group of prior experience with the works themselves, and/or could reawaken personal reminiscences about events in their own lives.

Colleen found this approach generated much discussion among the participants, creating lively sessions. Often, the same group returned the following month, building camaraderie and art knowledge. With her background in education, Colleen was able to utilise her extensive skills to involve all visitors and make them feel valued.

Happily, Colleen was able to create a similar program at NGV, as well as undertake general guiding duties, which involved rotating between NGV International and NGV Australian on a six-monthly basis, after a comprehensive 18-month training program.

At the national Australian Association of Gallery Guides Organisation conference in Perth in March 2017, Colleen was part of a panel discussing various approaches to meeting special needs of gallery visitors of all ages. Her presentation elicited much interest and discussion.

Probably the main “carrot” we used to entice Colleen to join CAM guides was to indicate our interest and willingness to enable her to develop a similar program. The planning for this was in its infancy when CAM had to close its doors temporarily in mid 2018. Following her appointment, CAM’s current director Naomi Cass resumed discussions with Colleen and Assistant Gallery Manager Brodie Ellis about this project. They were able to confirm genuine interest within the Mt Alexander Shire community. It is to be hoped that this program can continue post Covid, despite the significant loss of Colleen.

Womindjika Woorineen willam bit
Willam Dja Dja Wurrung Balug
Wokuk mung gole-bo-turoi
talkoop mooroopook

Welcome to our homeland,
home of the Dja Dja Wurrung people
we offer you people good spirit.
Uncle Rick Nelson

The Jaara people of the Dja Dja Wurrung are the Custodians of the land and waters on which we live and work. We pay our respects to the Elders past, present and emerging. We extend these same sentiments to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Nations peoples.

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