NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – On Cookie Wiebe’s bucket list: “Mount a public exhibit of my India photos.”
The Bethel College art graduate (Class of 1976) got to see her hope fulfilled twice, with exhibitions at The Fiber Studio in Wichita and Pages Books & Coffee in Newton this past summer.
And the exhibit keeps going. Kauffman Museum on Bethel’s campus opened “Eyes of a Stranger: Photographs by Cookie Wiebe” Sunday, Nov. 13. In addition, the Bethel alumni magazine, Context, will feature several of Wiebe’s photos in the “Encore” section of its upcoming issue.
Sadly, Wiebe won’t be here to see these – she died Oct. 31 at age 57 after being diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer a little over a year ago. She did, however, know both were happening.
The Kauffman Museum special exhibit features, in addition to Wiebe’s photos, companion artifacts collected in India by museum friends. Mounted photos by Wiebe can be ordered at the museum store.
Cookie and Dave Wiebe served four years at Woodstock School in Mussoorie, India, in the 1990s. They returned in 2009, Dave as a math teacher and Cookie working in human resources, intending to be there for a number of years more. But Cookie’s cancer diagnosis cut those plans tragically short.
In the year before she got sick, Wiebe took her small digital camera with her everywhere she went. The couple particularly enjoyed hiking together – Mussoorie is in northern India, in the foothills of the Himalayas. Wiebe estimated she took between 2,000 and 3,000 photos a month while she was in India.
Back in Kansas (where Wiebe continued to take photos – especially along the Sand Creek bike/walking path that ran near her home on West 11th Street – almost up until her death), The Fiber Studio invited her to display her photos. Friends donated money and time to enable museum-quality mounting for 30 of them, as well as to design and print the information cards that went with each one.
Kauffman Museum Curator of Exhibits Chuck Regier, who helped put together the original exhibit, reflected, “We understood how significant this exhibition was to Cookie. Rather than traditional art framing, we used a minimalist mounting technique that heightens the immediacy of Cookie’s artful photography.”
The result was an exhibition that tells a story about India and a story about Cookie Wiebe, wrote Chad Frey in a June 20 review article in The Newton Kansan.
The exhibit at Kauffman Museum will run through Jan. 22, 2012. Wiebe’s husband, Dave Wiebe of Newton, will give a program at the museum at a later date.
Regular Kauffman Museum hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 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 current special exhibit, “Eyes of a Stranger,” as well as 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 website, www.bethelks.edu/kauffman/.