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New museum exhibit sees small-town Kansas through an artist’s eye

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Kauffman Museum on the campus of Bethel College will highlight, in one exhibit to be displayed twice, artist and teacher Bob Regier’s eye for Kansas.

For 20 years, Regier, of North Newton, has traveled the main streets and back roads of the state along with his wife Vernette and friends Aldine and Keith Sprunger, also of North Newton. The foursome annually spends three days exploring one quadrant of the Sunflower State. They share an enduring affection for small towns on the Kansas prairie.

Regier never travels without his camera, updated in recent years from shooting slide film to digital, and has long turned his eye to photographing the ordinary yet visually engaging patterns of both the prairie and human-built environment. Seventy-one of these photographs make up the core of the new special exhibition at Kauffman Museum, “Considering the Commonplace: Prairie Towns through the Lens of Bob Regier,” which will be on display April 26-May 28, and again July 19-October 4 (in between, it will come down to accommodate the museum’s annual Uncle Carl’s Camps series).

Said Regier, “Exploring the commonplace can be a rather melancholy activity if abandonment and decay are too pervasive. However, such explorations also reveal signs of renewal.” Images in the exhibition range from a lonely church steeple in Gem to pink and turquoise window frames in Garnett, and from broken glass in Nashville to a bright white grain elevator in Dwight.

“Considering the Commonplace” is organized around eight themes: elegance; entrances; light and shadow; locomotion; sacred space; sentinels; signs and lines; windows and walls. Chuck Regier, Kauffman Museum curator of exhibits, grouped the themes and designed the installation, which also includes notable quotes that Bob Regier has found that reflect his affection and appreciation for the ordinary.

Together the two Regiers, who are not related, “have created an immersive environment that encourages exploration and reflection,” said Kauffman Museum Director Rachel Pannabecker.

In addition, Chuck Regier designed the freestanding exhibit modules to travel to other museums and galleries.

On Friday, May 1, Bob Regier will tell the story of traveling and photographing the common places of Kansas in an illustrated program called “Mainstreets and Backroads: Celebrating the Ordinary,” at 7 p.m. in the Kauffman Museum auditorium. Because of limited seating, the program will be repeated twice, on Sunday, July 26, at 3:30 p.m. (a Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum program), and during Fall Festival on Saturday, October 3, at 9 a.m. The “Mainstreets and Backroads” programs are free and open to the public.

The May 1 program will launch Regier’s newest book, also titled Considering the Commonplace. The full-color book contains photographs and quotes from the exhibition and will be available for purchase in the Kauffman Museum store, along with a notecard set of selected photographs. Regier will sign books at all three programs.

Regier studied at the School of the Chicago Art Institute and holds the master of fine arts degree in painting and printmaking from the University of Illinois. He retired from Bethel College in 1992 after teaching art for 32 years. Regier’s primary studio interest has been printmaking, especially monotypes, and he also has actively pursued graphic design and photography. Since 1985, he has been part of the Kauffman Museum exhibit team, winning numerous awards for exhibit and graphic design.

Regular Kauffman Museum hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tues.-Fri., and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission to the museum, which also includes admission to the permanent exhibits “Of Land and People,” “Mirror of the Martyrs” and “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture,” is $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-16, and free to Kauffman Museum members and children under 6. For more information, call the museum at 316-283-1612 or visit its Web site, www.bethelks.edu/kauffman/.

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