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Top Queanbeyan artist dies suddenly at 80

Connee-Colleen Cameron (centre) and her son Owen with friend, Sue Jarvis at the opening of Rusten House Arts Centre in April. Photo: Helen Musa

Connee-Colleen, February 23, 1941-December 16, 2021

ONE of Queanbeyan’s best-known characters and finest artists, has died in the past week aged 80.

Connee-Colleen Cameron was one of the town’s genuinely larger-than-life characters.

Born in Dubbo, the youngest child of George and Jess Cameron,  she has  been part of the Queanbeyan community for decades as an artist, activist, agitator, archivist, and a strident champion of Queanbeyan’s cultural history.

Mother of three, grandmother of eight and great grandmother to two, Connee-Colleen has been in high-level care for the past few years, but emerged as lively as ever in April to attend the opening of the  Rusten House Arts Centre in Collett Street,  where she proved she was still able to heckle the speechmakers.

Connee-Colleen working on the facade of the old Queanbeyan Hospital.

Of her, Ngambri elder and artist Matilda House, said: “Thanks to Connee… your footprint is here, you have walked here with me”.

That was a reference to the fact that in 2009, the former Labor Premier of NSW, Nathan Rees, had announced that the heritage house would be formally handed over from the NSW government to Connee Colleen as representative of the people of Queanbeyan.

Last year in an art-meets-history show at The Queanbeyan Hive, Connee-Colleen was  the subject of an exhibition featuring sculpted portraits of real-life local subjects, her drawings, sketches, plans and records of her long artistic career.

A professionally trained artist, having, as a single mum, put herself through masters in sculpture at the ANU School of Art, she was held in high regard by legendary sculptor Jan Brown.

She badgered the NSW government to support the  installation of Peter Corlett’s large sculpture of Canberra region founding  father, John Gale, which now stands outside the Queanbeyan Courthouse.

I have sat on arts committees with Connee-Colleen and seen her ejected from council meetings for her rowdy, passionate interjections as she sought to save some of Queanbeyan’s most historic buildings, even a modest cottage in Surveyor Street, from oblivion.

A contrarian by nature, she used her fondness for a good fight to advance the community she lived in, once saving 2500 bricks and moulds of a frontispiece on the façade of the 1933 Queanbeyan District Hospital building before it was demolished.

In the week of her surprise death, members of the Queanbeyan community had gathered at the Hive to commence fundraising to conserve her sculptures, a project which will continue in memory of a true believer in history and art.

The funeral service for Connee-Colleen will be held at Christ Church, Rutledge Street, Queanbeyan, at 1.30pm, Thursday, December 23. Burial will follow at Queanbeyan Lawn Cemetery.

 

 

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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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