Connecting community

K-State’s Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art is an active place. In 25 years of stewarding and making accessible a collection of art representing Kansas and the Midwest, no one could have predicted the challenges the museum would face and overcome during the pandemic.

The pandemic underscored the essential role that the Beach Museum of Art fills to connect, soothe and invite people to experience something greater than their present circumstances. And generous donors make it possible.

“(During the pandemic), the Beach offered something we can experience together and talk about even if we are not together,” said Tony Crawford, Friends of the Beach Museum of Art president. “They created a variety of meaningful programs from virtual exhibits, film discussions and ArtBytes online to the Inside Out exhibit.”

During the unprecedented shift to online delivery of art and the transformational conversations that follow, donors were key to bringing these powerful opportunities to life for the K-State and regional communities.

“It is people and their creative contributions that make the Beach an art museum rather than a storehouse,” said Linda Duke, museum director. “Art comes alive and speaks to people when it is presented in contexts that allow it to speak. The design of exhibitions, meaningful public programs and educational outreach — all of these create contexts that allow people to discover new ways of seeing the world and their lives. Donors’ gifts fund all of this activity.”

It takes philanthropy  —  extraordinary generosity  —  to increase the endowment funds sufficient to support this essential work of curating art and stories that translate events into history.

The essential work of connecting people, cultivating conversations around art and providing sensory adventures, respite even, to Kansans around the world, did not stop. The Beach Museum staff created new ways to bring art to life and drew upon the endowment to ensure the museum remained a relevant community contributor.

Just as Kansans John Steuart Curry, Gordon Parks, Jim Richardson and Stan Herd translated their rural Kansas lives so the world could appreciate the beauty and resilience of the sunflower state, a new generation of Kansas artists are being featured at the Beach. Artists like Doug Barrett, 400 North Creative photographer who has been featured in TIME magazine, FOX news, CNN and BBC World News. Barrett is an artist and Friends of the Beach Museum of Art board member.  

“As a documentary photographer I have to use due diligence to ensure I’m helping to tell the correct narrative and to help share through my lens. This is why it is important for museums such as the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art to have work created, photographed, sculpted, carved, shaped and painted by us (underrepresented artists),” said Barrett. “The preservation of work to be held in such an institution as the Beach Museum is the pinnacle artist experience.”

Thanks to the many donors who support the Beach Museum of Art, Kansas artists continue to tell their stories in their voices and bring Kansas perspectives to K-State and the global community.

If you would like to join the Friends of the Beach Museum of Art, visit online at To invest in the Beach Museum’s endowment to ensure its work continues for generations, contact Linda Duke at or 785-532-7718 or Jennifer Rettele-Thomas at or 785-775-2084.

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zach hanood

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tom curoe

Tom Curoe Development Officer - Universitywide