K-State’s Beach Museum of Art has been showcasing Kansas, local and regional art for a quarter century
In 1996, the first mobile flip phone was sold, Intel released its 200-megahertz Pentium chip, Atlanta hosted the Olympic summer games, and the movie, Twister, made its premiere. It’s also the year K-State’s Marianna Beach Museum of Art opened to make regional, Kansas and local art to accessible to the public and inspire visitors to “think anew.” Three Kansans’ work is currently exhibited in celebration of the Beach Museum’s 25th anniversary season; Gordon Parks’ “Homeward to the Prairie I Come,” Doug Barrett’s “Find Your Voice” and Jon Steuart Curry’s “Sunrise over Kansas.”
Curry, Parks and Barrett are each recognized for their provocative portrayals of their Kansas experiences over the past nearly 100 years of their combined work. Curry was a painter known for his colorful and contemplative depictions of rural Kansas life and Midwest regionalism. His seminal work includes “Tragic Prelude,” found in the Kansas State Capitol Building and paintings, posters and book illustrations, some now on exhibit at the Beach Museum through February 28, 2022.
Gordon Parks: Homeward to the Prairie I Come
Though Parks and Barrett have distinguished themselves across several forms of media, the current Beach Museum exhibitions focus on their storytelling in photography. Parks’ “Homeward to the Prairie I Come” borrows its title from the first line of a poem Parks wrote in 1984 while an artist-in-residence with the Manhattan Mercury to commemorate the newspaper’s centennial year.
Through May 2022, visitors to the Beach will discover Parks’ poetry and his photography. Parks’ photography encompasses themes he often explored, such as the social and economic costs of racism and poverty. Parks donated the photographs to K-State in 1973 and personally curated the collection as “a kind of self-portrait directed to the home crowd,” said Aileen June Wang, curator at the Beach Museum.
In his writing such as “Kansas Land” published in 1968 and part of the exhibit, Parks describes the beauty of his home-state’s landscape with “wide prairie,” “rivers rolling quiet in long summers of sleepy days,” and “Yes, all this I would miss – along with the fear, hatred and violence We blacks had suffered upon this beautiful land.”
Doug Barrett: Find Your Voice
The only still-living of the three featured Kansan artists is Doug Barrett, photographer, cinematographer, documentarian, photojournalist. A former United States Army soldier and police/SWAT officer in Atlanta, Georgia, Barrett’s work is internationally recognized and has been featured in Bloomberg News, Wall Street Journal, TIME Magazine, National Geographic, Politico, New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, Washington Post, CNN, VICE, Fox News and BBC World News.
Barrett’s portfolio ranges from his Homeless Veteran Project, with the goal to document homelessness among veterans living in every state in America; the funeral of John Lewis, long-serving Congressman from Georgia; the Tijuana, Mexico, border wall; sports and more. In Barrett’s first solo exhibition at K-State, the Beach Museum is showcasing photographs from three of his ongoing and deeply personal projects: Homeless Veteran Project, Yuma Street, and George Floyd Protest.
“Photography matters. Art matters. Creativity matters and it needs to be shared,” said Barrett. “Mediums like photography have too often fallen short of representation. There are tons of photographers who can create amazing photographs but having a person of color (behind the lens who) understands the narrative of the race helps portray a pain, a story to help depict and share in a way that can help others understand. I have to use due diligence to ensure I’m helping to tell the correct narrative and to help share through my lens.”
In Barrett’s first solo exhibition at K-State, the Beach Museum is showcasing photographs from three of his ongoing and deeply personal projects: Homeless Veteran Project, Yuma Street, and George Floyd Protest.
“Barrett brings such acuity and authenticity to all three series featured in his first museum solo exhibition,” said Wang.. “The exhibition includes text written by Barrett to accompany each photograph. Barrett invested considerable time and energy embedding himself in his subjects’ lives and in getting to know them, just as his hero Gordon Parks did. Barrett also followed Parks’ example of telling a story through a combination of text and image. The results are works that distill universal truths of human experience from time- and place-specific stories, bringing to light with sincerity the shared humanity that connects all people.”
Explore the Beach
Plan your visit to the Beach Museum and explore what treasures are found within the museum through art displays, educational opportunities and public programs — many accessible online. Include the Meadow, a four-season living, learning prairie landscape in your visit. The multi-sensory Meadow was created in collaboration with the College of Architecture, Planning and Design, K-State facilities and through the work of countless volunteers and is accessible day and night. You might even spot a fox scampering through.
The Beach Museum welcomes you to explore the exhibitions in person and virtually. Your gifts will help restore operating funds that have declined as state funding declined. During the months closed due to the pandemic, the Beach staff created innovative exhibits to be viewed online and from outside, through the building’s windows. The essential work of the Museum to “further the teaching, research and service missions of Kansas State University by collecting, studying, caring for and presenting the visual art of Kansas and the region. The Museum’s exhibitions and programs connect regional art, culture and interests with the larger world.”
Make a difference
Philanthropy means survival for the museum and generous K-Staters and patrons fund all of the museum’s activity, including the teaching, research, service missions and outdoor exhibits like The Meadow, where you’ll rest on reclaimed wood benches and weave along paths through swaying grasses and birdsong in every season.
Gordon Parks: Homeward to the Prairie I Come, on view through May 28, 2022
Doug Barrett: Find Your Voice, on view through May 28, 2022
Paleolithic Points from the Forms: Four Worlds|David Lebrun, on view through July 16, 20
Beach Museum of Art Online
Begin with the website, beach.k-state.edu, or the Beach Blog, blogs.k-state.edu/beach. From there you can access virtual and interactive exhibits — including the Curry, Parks and Barrett exhibits, the Facebook page and Twitter feed, YouTube account, information about The Meadow, a learning landscape of native plants adjacent to the Beach Museum of Art, and more.