Spotlight | Ben Tupas, LIT Festival

a graphic designer with big plans for the arts community

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Ben Tupas is a leader in Toowoomba’s creative community.

The brains behind LIT Festival, a biennial lights show that activates the CBD, the designer behind Bar Wunder’s awesome signage, and an educator at Harristown State, Ben quietly but continuously contributes to the growth of this city’s creative scene. We were thrilled to have him as our very first CreativeMornings/Toowoomba speaker, and to learn more about his plans for LIT and beyond.

This week we spoke to Ben about his work journey, cocktails in a jar (genius!) and what brought him to town.

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Name: Ben Tupas
KNOWN FOR: LIT Festival: Stories in Light
Occupation: digital storyteller and educator
Born: Toronto, Canada
Local since: 2009

First things first: why Toowoomba?

This is my tenth year in Toowoomba. I grew up on the southside of Brisbane. Later, when I moved out of home I lived in West End in a couple of sharehouses. West End still has a special place in my heart! We moved to Toowoomba for a tree change. We’d lived in and around the inner northern suburbs before we left Brisbane – Paddington, Bardon – and we wanted a change of pace and to save money, plus we knew Toowoomba would be a great place to raise kids.

What is that you do?

When I’m not teaching, I freelance as a digital storyteller. This loosely sums whatever digital work I might be doing at the time.

To give you an idea, I’m currently wrapping up work on the graphic design for ‘Rainbow Connections’, a regional LGBTI+ event put on by Lifeline. I recently collaborated with local photographer Theresa Hall to do a visual documentation of the first ever Curious Arts Festival. And just a few weeks back I was invited to speak at the first CreativeMornings/Toowoomba.

I guess my point of difference is that I prioritise work that has a positive social and community impact. I like working with startups, small business and the creative community. I designed the branding for Bar Wunder and Bunker Records.

I get most of my work via word of mouth and I’m also experimenting when I can – with the right people, and with barter and trade as a form of non-cash exchange for goods and services.

What have you learned about running a business in Toowoomba? What are the unique opportunities, benefits and challenges?

Not feeling overly competitive for business is a big plus with doing what I do in Toowoomba.

Having a really diverse practice allows me to connect with different people and stay creative. As there’s only about two degrees of separation (!) if you do good work, word of mouth can really work in your favour!

A challenge I continually find in the work I do is having to educate people on the value of what I do. I know there’s an app for everything or you can get someone offshore to create your branding for a fiver, but really you do get what you paid for.

I’d like to see more people tap into the local creativity and talent that exists in our region rather than outsource to Brisbane or beyond.

What does an average day look like for you?

I start my day in a fairly typical way. Breakfast and an espresso wakes me up. Getting kids off to school is also top priority. After that, I make a list of all the work I need to achieve and just hook in to emails and computer work. Working for myself, I have the flexibility to catch up with people for coffee. Today after getting through the bulk of my list, I went off to the community garden I’m part of and harvested some veges to use for dinner. If I’ve been sitting and staring at a screen for too long, I’ll do some yoga or rest my eyes by listening to a podcast. I’m also a believer in the power nap!

What does your ideal Toowoomba weekend look like?

So cliched, but if the sun was shining, nothing beats a blanket in Queens Park’s botanical gardens along with some nice cheese, pre-made Negroni in a jar (try it!), olives and and a copy of Dave Egger’s latest book.

Only a Toowoomba local would know…

You can buy pomegranate molasses (one of Ottolenghi’s 10 ingredients) at the Afghan grocer on Margaret Street.


PERK UP: A Piccolo from Payton at Bunker Espresso

RELAX: a bush walk in Crows Nest National Park

EAT: El Attar for authentic Egyptian street food. Try the Koshari.

INDULGE: The Baker’s Duck

SHOP: PCYC Market for fruit and veges and the lady that sells cannolis.

CATCH UP: Bar Wunder. If you need to catch up with four-legged creatures, head to the back section.

BE INSPIRED: Bolton Library, upstairs at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery. There’s a handwritten French manuscript in the collection from the 1840s.

Keep in touch with Ben’s work here.


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