Vale Gladstone art icon

GLADSTONE Art Gallery and Museum director Pamela Whitlock has paid a glowing tribute to Gladstone artist Joan Wright who died at Tweed Heads two weeks ago.

Ms Whitlock said Mrs Wright had given unstintingly of her time and talent to advance art in Gladstone and the artist’s community in Gladstone owed her an immense debt for the contribution.

“When I first arrived here I came into a community that was open to the arts, and I feel that Joan played an important part in developing that interest in art in Gladstone,” Ms Whitlock said.

She said a special virtue of Mrs Wright’s was a willingness to share her knowledge and time to encourage that interest in aspiring artists, especially among the young.

Mrs Wright came to the Gladstone region as an assistant teacher in 1938 shortly after her 18th birthday.

She taught at Riverston State School which was situated about five miles (km) from Taragoola Railway station and taught there until the end of 1940 when she resigned to marry Leonard Wright of Calliope, which she did in 1941.

She returned to teaching later and was at Gladstone South School for 15 years retiring in 1980.

During her teaching career she pursued her interest in art and attended adult education courses tutored by Marilyn Haertel. She attended art and china painting courses run by the McGregor College Summer School in Toowoomba and also joined the Flying Arts School attending many seminars run by the school.

She was a foundation member of the Gladstone Artists’ Club which was formed in the mid-1960s.

In 1982 she started an art group at the new college of TAFE which was later moved to the Gladstone Showgrounds; and after that to the Municipal Band Hall.

It became known as the Waterfront Artists, which still flourishes today under Helen Mangan providing art training for adult and children artists.

Mrs Wright left Gladstone in 2005 to be closer to her family.

A former student of Mrs Wright, Patricia Howard, who is now the Arts and Heritage officer at the Gladstone Art Gallery and Museum, said she had fond memories of her art teacher.

“She was very patient and kind and I was very fond of her,” she said.

“She was an excellent teacher – she encouraged experimentation in art, but was also a very good teacher of art techniques.”

Mrs Wright’s friend and fellow artist, Jo Williams, was effusive in her praise of the talented painter and said: “Joan Wright built the well from which Gladstone area artists now drink.”

Ms Williams said Mrs Wright helped the Martin Hanson Memorial Art Exhibition achieve the prestige status it has among artists in this State today, and was pivotal in creating the artistic culture enjoyed at present.

“She probably did more than anyone else to encourage art in Gladstone,” Ms Williams said.

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