Beatles exhibit opens 13 days ahead of schedule

Kate Fechter

The Beatles could be considered one of the most iconic bands in music history. Topekans Ron Russell and Tony Wedeking have been collecting Beatles’ memorabilia since the band was still producing music. A portion of their massive collection is now on display at the Mulvane Art Museum after the exhibit opened at noon Saturday – 13 days ahead of schedule.

Michael Hager, Exhibit Preparator at the Mulvane, has been working on this show for over a year and helping Russell and Wedeking to turn their collection into an exhibit. The display is entitled “Remember My Name.”

“We have been working on this show for about a year and have had our nose to the grindstone for the last three months,” said Hager.

Hager explained this is normal for an exhibit at the museum, but that a lot of planning time is also helpful in a case like this where the owners’ of the collection had never done an exhibition in a museum before. There is a lot to learn because displaying in a museum or gallery is different than in a private home.

“They have a story for every item,” said Hager. “For the last month and a half they have been bringing their stuff in by the carload. It took about a dozen trips.”

Organization proved to be a small challenge because Russell and Wedeking work third shift and are usually asleep when work is being done at the Mulvane. Despite the difference in schedules however, Hager said organizing things has gone better than he would have thought.

Despite their work schedules, Russell and Wedeking will be doing two discussions for the public to share the information about their collection. Avid collectors, only a portion will be on display. “What we are having on display is a miniscule part of their collection,” said Cindy Morrison, Director of the Mulvane Art Museum. “They are very passionate and very knowledgeable about all of it.”

Morrison is excited about the exhibit because it should appeal to people who may not normally be interested in the art scene. It also exposes that art is in things that we come into contact with all the time.

“It’s looking like the Beatles are very timeless and that is amazing for any band,” said Morrison. “It’s about the music but yet the posters, tickets and jewelry that were all memorabilia were designed by artists. So not only do we have the singers but also the people who make guitars, the printers, the jewelry-makers. Everything we use is all designed by somebody, and they are all artists.”

Morrison hopes this exhibit will bring newcomers to the Mulvane. The Beatles being such large pop culture icons may attract fans of the band that may not normally attend art museums and galleries.

“We are always looking at ways to attract different groups of people to the museum,” said Morrison. “We try to present a variety of different exhibitions both with thematic and subject matter.”

Works by Chinese artists, the “Surface and Form” exhibit and works by David Hicks Overmyer, a Topeka native and artist/ illustrator/ muralist, will soon be on display, as well.

The opening reception for the remaining exhibits is going to be on Friday, Feb. 4, from 5- 8 p.m. at the museum. The Mulvane is normally open on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and over the weekend from 1-4 p.m. The museum has a Facebook page and their website is Admission is always free.

“We are going to have four different thing going on at one time,” said Morrison. “We hope that anybody coming here might find something they enjoy and tell other people about.”