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Artist paints to create pleasure for herself and viewers

April 16th, 2018

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A key word for Wichita artist Jan Klassen is “enjoyment” – for herself and, she hopes, the viewer.

An exhibit of Klassen’s paintings, “Back to Nature,” is currently on display at Bethel College in the Regier Gallery in Luyken Fine Arts Center.

Klassen came to painting in the “second half” of life. After a 20-year career in apparel retail as a buyer, display creator and department head, and after seeing her last child leave home, she was looking for “an antidote to empty-nest syndrome,” she says, along with “a desire to grow, and not give in to aging.”

She enrolled in a computer class at Barton County Community College, Great Bend, but admits she thought computer skills would be “necessary but not fun.” So she also signed up for art appreciation.

“The instructor for this class believed that the only way to appreciate art is to try it,” Klassen says. “She therefore incorporated hands-on projects – painting, drawing, clay work, collage, and so on – into the curriculum. I found I really enjoyed painting – and I found a passion.”

Klassen has continued to take classes, at BCCC, and then when she and her husband moved to Wichita, at Wichita Center for the Arts, now Mark Arts, and CityArts. She has studied with Brian Hinkle, Matthew Hilliard, Joe Gross, Paul Wingo and Melinda Weis.

She has also “continued to grow in knowledge and inspiration. “My favorite times are in classes at Mark Arts. The energy and support of fellow classmates are a vital link to inspiration and creativity.”

Klassen joined Gallery XII in 2011. “Working with a cooperative gallery gives me a space to always show my work and also to work with and be inspired by other artists,” she says.

Klassen works in acrylic and oil, often adding texture with paper or other texturizing media.

“The landscape of the Southwest is what most often inspires me to paint,” she says. “I find that landscapes with no sign of habitation are what I enjoy most, [where I allow] the abstract beauty of nature to create the story.

“My imaginary landscapes have the feeling of a moment in time, without interference from mankind. I love earth tones, rocks, sunsets and trees. However, my paintings are more abstract than realistic because I am playing with my imagination.

“I [wait] for the paint to speak to me, allowing me to find new frontiers as I create. Hopefully, there is a connection to the divine.

“Painting for me is about being playful and spontaneous – just having fun with the process and experimenting with the paint and tools to see what happens. Good or bad is not so important. Pleasure is. Perhaps the viewer will enjoy as well.”

“Back to Nature” is on display through March 29. The artist reception is that evening from 6-8 p.m. outside the Regier Gallery.

The gallery is open Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sundays from 2-4 p.m. The gallery is closed Sunday, March 18, and Sunday, March 25, for Bethel’s spring break. Admission is free.

Also in the gallery for the 2017-18 season are the annual Student Art Exhibit (April 6-27) and Senior Art Exhibit (May 4-20).

Bethel College ranks at No. 1 in College Consensus’ ranking of Kansas colleges and universities, and is the only Kansas private college listed in the analysis of top colleges and universities, for 2017-18. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.