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Local artist and museum designer to help celebrate "K is for Kansas"

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- In mid-July, Kauffman Museum welcomed home its award-winning exhibit, "K is for Kansas"--26 giant alphabet blocks that illustrate significant natural, cultural and historic features of the Sunflower State. "K is for Kansas" will be on display through November 13, and over that time period, the museum will be hosting several events that highlight the exhibit.

On Sunday afternoon, Sept. 11, Bob Regier, North Newton, Bethel College professor emeritus of art and a design consultant for Kauffman Museum since its renaissance in the 1980s, will present a Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum program of his slides that he calls "My Kansas Alphabet."

Regier has been taking photos, with Kansas as a favorite subject, since he began teaching art at Bethel College in the mid-1960s. He is widely known for his stunning photographs of prairie landscapes and details.

Since the late ’80s, Bob and Vernette Regier, along with their friends Aldine and Keith Sprunger, also of North Newton, have been traveling around Kansas, usually on three-day trips. Of course, Regier always took his camera.

More recently, Regier was part of the team that designed "K is for Kansas." As he worked on the exhibit, he says, he also began thinking about how he could fit his own photographic images--some of which are part of "K is for Kansas"--into a slide show that paralleled the exhibit.

"There were two inspirations for the slide show--the exhibit and our travels around Kansas," he says. "Then it was an interesting exercise for me to begin thinking: ‘What kind of alphabet would I put together?’"

The result was "My Kansas Alphabet," which Kauffman Museum director Rachel Pannabecker describes as "an artist’s view of the state, from the familiar to the quirky."

The program will begin at 3 p.m. (please note the time is a half-hour earlier than most Sunday afternoon programs) at the museum, located at North Main and 27th Streets in North Newton. It is free and open to the public.

Since "K is for Kansas" first opened about three years ago, it has won several awards--state, regional and national. In 2004, the exhibit received the Kansas Museums Association Award for Excellence. Also in 2004, the flyer that goes with the exhibit won the Mountain-Plains Museums Association’s Excellence in Publication Award, along with first prize in the American Association of Museums (AAM) Museum Publications Design competition (supplemental materials category, museums with an annual budget under $500,000).

"K is for Kansas" has also been on the road--at the Stauth Museum in Montezuma and the Smoky Hill Museum in Salina. In late 2005 and 2006, it will travel to the Johnson County Museums in Shawnee and the Coffey County Historical Museum in Burlington.

The purpose of the exhibit is to help museum visitors appreciate the unique people, places, animals, plants and everyday things of Kansas, says Pannabecker.

Each of the 26 alphabet blocks provides in-depth coverage of a word meaningful to Kansas. These words are represented in various ways, from maps and historic photographs to the "real" object. Examples include a toy Santa Fe locomotive, a hands-on ornate box turtle shell, a Vornado fan invented in Kansas and a carving of an upland sandpiper by local artist Ray Cook.

"The exhibit reflects where we are--in south central Kansas on the west edge of the Flint Hills--and who we are--an exhibit team of parents, designers, teachers, scientists, artists and carpenters who, after a combined 200 years of living here, have come to love Kansas," says exhibit designer Chuck Regier.

The words selected by the exhibit team include personal favorites that point to the quirky and fun sides of Kansas. For example, Dalton Gang, Dexter helium wells and dogbane are listed as "D" words. But the exhibit also supports Kansas Department of Education social studies and science standards by including words such as Dust Bowl.

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