‘Big Sky Prairie’ on display at Southwind Gallery

Kate Fechter

Colorful prairie scenes and vibrant sunsets are currently on display at the Southwind Gallery and Frame Shop.  The work of friends and fellow artists, Judith Mackey and Deb Schroer are currently on display at the shop located on 29th Street.

Gary Blitsch, gallery director, has been busy over the years turning the frame shop into a combination of frame shop and art gallery.  He is such a busy man that his office is located in the back of the gallery, right near the heart of the action.

Blitsch has been an important part of many of the activities in the Topeka art scene in recent years.  Raised in Iowa, prior to owning the frameshop, Blitsch spent 30 years working in banking after being in the Navy.

When he purchased the shop in 1992, Blitsch did not intend to be so hands on. However, he got involved and enjoyed it enough to keep working there; even at an age when others may have retired. Blitsch takes pride in his work.

“The Chinese sculpture over by Henderson was a project we began,” said Blitsch. “We try to do one major project a year.”

In recent years, the Southwind was involved in the Kansas scenic byways series of paintings done by Stan Herd.  There were 9 prints in the box sets, and they sold for $500 a set.  They also helped organize 65 artists, who were cut loose on the KU campus to paint. Photographers covered the event. The photos of the artists, their paintings and other parts of the event were turned into a book.

Kansas will be turning 150 years old. Blitsch and the Southwind will be heavily involved in the festivities.

“This year we intend to have a juried art competition where we wish to have 150 paintings,” said Blitsch.  “The this is open to pros and emerging artists alike.”

The theme is Kansas, but outside of this Blitsch says there are no limitations.  He is currently working on the entry details.  He said the contest is open to present, former and wannabe Kansans alike.

The current exhibit on display is called “Big Sky Prairie.”  The artists are Deb Schroer and Judith Mackey.

Judith Mackey has been a professional painter for over forty years.  Many of her paintings are set near her home in Cottonwood Falls.  She is well known in the art world for her paintings of the Flint Hills and Chase County.

Deb Schroer studied at one time under Mackey but is a well-known artist in her own right. She also paints many scenes from the Flint Hills area.

“Both have their own strengths,” said Blitsch. “Deb’s paintings are a little softer and gentler. Judy’s are a little more vibrant and brighter. They are talented artists and good friends.”

Schroer and Mackey’s paintings will be on display at the Southwind Gallery until Nov. 15.  The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.. Monday-Friday, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Its website is www.southwindartgallery.com, and it also has a Facebook page.

“You don’t have to go to Lawrence or Kansas City for art anymore,” said Blitsch. “There are lots of good places to see and buy art in this city. We have the nucleus for a great arts town. In my opinion, the arts can pull the community along until we get to the place we want to be. It’s a big deal if we let it be a big deal.”