Beach exhibit highlights prairie past

By The Mercury

Kansas State University’s Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art is sharing works from its renowned John Steuart Curry collection in the exhibition “John Steuart Curry: Prairie Journeys,” which will be on display through May 11.

Most of the Beach Museum of Art’s collection of approximately 900 works by the noted regionalist artist Curry came as a bequest in 2002 from Kathleen Curry, the artist’s widow. The museum’s holdings, which include paintings, prints and drawings, represent one of the largest — if not the largest — collections of the artist’s work.

The works in “Prairie Journeys” offer up a range of themes relating to expeditions to the prairie — from pioneer settlement, to American Indian movement, to slaveholders’ and abolitionists’ efforts to populate Kansas before and during the Civil War.

Several events related to the exhibition — most free and open to the public unless otherwise noted — will be offered, including:

• “John Steuart Curry and Kansas: The Muse is Not Amused,” with historian Dianne Eickhoff and journalist Aaron Barnhart, will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, in the museum’s UMB Theater.

Eickhoff and Barnhart will recount and assess the controversy over Curry’s “Tragic Prelude,” one of his famous murals at the Kansas State Capitol Building. The mural features an outsized John Brown. They also will discuss other Curry works related to the state’s history. The presentation is sponsored by the Richard Coleman Beach Museum of Art Lecture Series fund.

• Laura Kuykendall, assistant professor of art history at Ball State University, will present the lecture “John Steuart Curry: Regionalism at War” at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, in the museum’s UMB Theater. Kuykendall will talk about Curry’s lesser-known World War II art, which includes war bond posters and military training imagery.

• The Beach Museum of Art and Riley County Historical Society have partnered to provide “Picturing Kansas: Journey to the Prairie” tours for area schoolchildren. At the museum, students will view works by Curry and artists Tom Parish and Joan Backes.

Grades kindergarten through third will focus on early settlement, home and family life, and weather. Grades fourth through sixth will learn about exploring and settling Kansas and the role of the state in the Civil War. Bus funds are provided by Target, the Bramlage Family Foundation, the Manhattan-Ogden School Foundation and the Van Swaay Family Foundation.

For more information, call 785-532-7718 or visit

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