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Last week to see museum's exhibit of nomadic arts from Central Asia

November 1st, 2022

Entry to "Reeds & Wool" exhibit

This is the final week to see Kauffman Museum’s exhibit of the textile arts of Kyrgyz nomads, “Reeds & Wool: Patterned Screens of Central Asia,” Tuesday, May 22, through Sunday, May 28.

The special exhibition, which opened Oct. 22, will be on display through May 21, 2023.

Kauffman Museum developed this exhibition in 1998 in collaboration with John L. Sommer (1927-2020) to feature his extensive collection of reed screens.

Kyrgyz women created these richly textured screens in the 19th and early 20th centuries as furnishings for their yurt dwellings, as a colorful insulating layer or an interior space divider.

“Reeds & Wool” shares the story of this unique cultural tradition and its creative use of natural materials.

The screens are made by wrapping unspun dyed wool around tallgrass stems according to a pattern retained only in the memory of the craftswomen. The full design emerges when the reeds are twined together with binding cords.

The screens and their story were largely unknown outside Central Asia while Kyrgyz territory was part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Kyrgyzstan became an independent republic in 1991 and is a land-locked nation northeast of Afghanistan.

Kauffman Museum is reinstalling “Reeds & Wool” in memory of John Sommer, who collected the screens and organized the exhibition.

After retiring from his California urology practice in 1990, Sommer became active in the world of Oriental rugs, and was especially intrigued with the history of textile design.

After hearing a conference lecture on the antecedents of rug motifs, he visited Kyrgyzstan in 1992, and made seven more visits in the following years.

In Kyrgyzstan, Sommer collected prime examples of antique reed screens and allied wool textiles. His insatiable curiosity led to researching ethnographic materials on Kyrgyz nomads published in Russian.

These experiences resulted in two books, The Kyrgyz and their Reed Screens (1996) and Klavdiya Antipina, Ethnographer of the Kyrgyz (2002, written with Bibira Akmoldoeva).

Kauffman Museum staff remember Sommer for his infectious enthusiasm that encouraged visitors to look closely at the screen designs, take in their smoky yurt aroma and try their hand at twining on a reproduction frame.

Said retired museum director Rachel Pannabecker, “We deeply admired John for his expert collecting eye and his scholarship, but also for the way he showed respect and admiration for the Kyrgyz people. He collected relationships as well as artifacts.”

For the past 22 years, Kauffman Museum has toured the “Reeds & Wool” exhibition to museums in Kansas, Kentucky and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Alberta. This is the only exhibit in North America to focus entirely on Kyrgyz reed screens.

For more information on the exhibit, public programs and the museum in general, visit, Kauffman Museum’s Facebook page, or contact the museum at or 316-283-1612.

Regular Kauffman Museum hours are Tues.-Fri. 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 1:30-4:30 p.m., closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-16, and free to Kauffman Museum members and children under 6. The museum store is open during the same hours with no admission charge.

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