Vibrant gallery houses Kansas artist’s collection

“I only intended to dance across the canvas with joy after the birth of my granddaughter Dorianna. It was a surprise to me to discover possible suggestions of the wonder of birth in my painting.”— Rita Blitt

Jessica Knieff

Rita Blitt feels as though she is “dancing on paper.”

The Rita Blitt Gallery and sculpture garden opens to the public at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 3 in conjunction with Topeka’s First Friday Art Walk. The Mulvane Art Museum will hold a meet and greet in Blitt’s honor.

Following the 2015 announcement of a donation of around 800 pieces of her work and a gallery to house them in, the grassy area adjacent to White Concert Hall was transformed into an exhibition of the life’s work of world-renowned artist, Rita Blitt.

A Kansas City native, Blitt’s work celebrates her love of nature, music, dance and the spontaneous flow of movement captured in the drawn gesture, according to her website.

The gallery features paintings, as well as both indoor and outdoor installation pieces. The outdoor sculpture garden features a fire pit for art enthusiasts to occupy. According to a May press release, this will create a meaningful link between the performing and visual arts on campus.

Sarah Towle, director of marketing and communications for the Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation, worked with Blitt throughout the installment of the gallery.

“It’s really special to [Blitt] because it’s all about the combination of music and art,” Towle said.

The location of the new gallery was intentional as her art features so much movement, so does the music that will be heard from White Concert Hall and Garvey Fine Arts Center as visitors enjoy the gallery.

According to Towle, one of Blitt’s favorite pieces is “Serenity,” which she drew following the birth of Dorianna, her granddaughter. The artwork in the museum shines light on more than seven decades worth of artwork from the various stages of her life.

Shannon Sweeney, collections manager and registrar for the Mulvane Art Museum, oversaw some of the installment of the pieces in the gallery.

“The exciting thing is that Rita’s work involves so much movement,” Sweeney said. “Situating it here next to White Concert Hall expands awareness about arts and how interconnected they are.”

Blitt’s gallery may be new addition on campus, but students have been enjoying her artwork for some time now. The sculpture that was placed in front of the new Morgan Hall Welcome Center is Blitt’s piece, “Confluence of Love and Learning.” It was installed in October of 2015 after its purchase by Washburn alumni.

Miyuki Nishimura, senior art major, has studied Blitt’s work and said that she feels the university and Blitt have a close relationship. She said that Blitt’s works give her a sense of closeness as well.

“I believe that her works give a lot of inspiration to people in different ways by making them think,” Nishimura said.

For more information on the Rita Blitt Gallery and sculpture garden, contact the Mulvane Art Museum at (785) 670-2427 or hear from Blitt at a brown bag lecture at noon Nov. 7 in the new gallery space.