Numerous exhibits scheduled to make Mulvane debut

Paige Lockard

Washburn University has a budding museum on its campus. It has free entry, a high educational value and displays interesting, diverse, wholly unique works of art. With two current exhibits and more in the works, there is plenty at the Mulvane Art Museum for students and non-students alike.

The interim director of the Mulvane Art Museum, Reinhild Janzen, has been busy for more than a year as the museum’s curator. As curator she has been responsible for finding, gathering,and creating exhibits as well as interpreting works of art.

Janzen said the “Made in China – A Kansas Initiative” exhibition opened with a reception and celebration Oct. 5, and the “Sudan: The Land and the People” portraits were opened to the public Nov. 2. Both exhibits will remain open until April 13.

The exhibits, like all hosted by the Mulvane, opened on the first Friday of the month. Janzen said this is known as “First Friday” in Topeka and in many other cities throughout Kansas.

“[We do the] openings typically on Friday evenings because it is in connection with the Topeka Art Walk,” said Janzen.

She explained that the Topeka Art Walk does not have a single location. Several art galleries in Topeka organize the event, and people can literally walk, though they usually drive, from one gallery to the next. Participants share refreshments and look at art together.

There are some other exhibits coming soon to the Mulvane Art Museum. “Out of the Depths” will show work by French expressionist Georges Rousault, who was born in the last quarter of the 19th century and died halfway through the 20th century.

“[Rousault] created a number of religious works,” said Janzen. “He’s a very, very devout Catholic.”

The exhibit, based on a particular psalm from the New Testament in the Bible, will open Jan. 12.

Another exhibit that also will open Jan. 12 is “31 Works of Art: The Rich Legacy of 40 Years of the Mulvane Women’s Board.” Janzen explained that the MWB is a women’s support organization for the museum that raises money for various endeavors of the museum. The organization funds a scholarship each year for a Washburn art student, pays for new art for Mulvane’s collection and has contributed to the purchase of benches and an upcoming exhibition case.

“One of the ways they make money for the Mulvane Art Museum is by running the gift store,” said Janzen.

She added that the MWB is an all-volunteer organization and exists to raise funds for all kinds of things the Mulvane needs.

“31 Works of Art” is a tribute to the MWB’s 40 years of service. It will feature 31 completely different types of art, including paintings, prints, ceramic pieces, sculptures and glass art. Janzen said that all of these works have been collected through the years.

Janzen’s biggest project since she became the museum’s director and curator is “Visual Encounter with Paraguay: Celebrating 40 years of Kansas-Paraguay Partnership.” This large exhibit of more than 150 works of art will take up the entire upper floor of the museum and will be open to the public Jan. 26 to celebrate the organization’s 40th anniversary in 2008.

“Partners of the Americas” was a John F. Kennedy initiative that paired every state with a South American country. Kansas was partnered with Paraguay, and “Kansas-Paraguay Partners” is an organization that fosters exchanges between Paraguay and Kansas. Washburn has a number of students from Paraguay, and artists have visited back and forth between countries. This upcoming exhibit will be much different from the China and Sudan exhibits as it will include more varieties of art.

“It will be very diverse,” said Janzen.

She added that there would be paintings, silver and gold objects, painted sculptures, prints, ceramics, and even lace.

“There is a very specific kind of lacework, which will be stunning,” said Janzen. “It is a very old Spanish tradition that survived in Paraguay.”

“Visual Encounter with Paraguay” will also be different because the China and Sudan displays were loan exhibitions. The China exhibit was organized by the University of Kansas, and the Sudan exhibit was purchased from Washington, D.C.

Janzen said that organizing this Paraguayan exhibit has taken a lot of work and time. She started by looking at art that people in Kansas had brought back from Paraguay, but that wasn’t enough for her.

“I decided that I really needed to go to Paraguay myself,” said Janzen.

Last May, the Kansas-Paraguay Partners hosted her traveling and sent her to Paraguay. Starting last January, Janzen began the process of putting together this exhibit piece by piece.

“It’s not just finding the art and bringing it to the museum,” said Janzen. “You have to also make sense of it.”

With so much to juggle, Janzen can’t do everything on her own. Brogan Lasley is the education coordinator and Kandis Barker is the associate education coordinator. Lasley and Barker handle anything that combines education and art, including the placement of art teachers in Topeka schools, after-school programs and group tours in the Mulvane.

Despite the whirl of activity at the museum, student attendance remains lackluster. With luck, the new exhibits will draw in more people, student or otherwise, to see what the Mulvane has to offer.

“I’d really like to see more Washburn students in here,” said Janzen.