NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Conrad Snider, Newton, the latest Bethel College alumnus to mount an exhibit in the Fine Arts Center Gallery, is known for his large ceramic figures and vessels.
A number of these can be found in public installations in central and south central Kansas.
So when Snider was invited to display his work at Bethel, he decided to make it mostly photos of the installations, to give people a chance to see them “all in one place.”
The exhibit, titled “Dusty Footprints,” is now open in the FAC Gallery and remains through Feb. 15. The artist reception will be Jan. 31 from 6-8 p.m. outside the gallery.
Gallery hours are Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 2-4 p.m. There is no admission charge.
In the center of the exhibit space are two clay figures and two vessels that Snider included, he says, to show “scale, materials and so on.” The largest vessel, also the newest piece in the exhibit, is seven feet high.
The rest of “Dusty Footprints” consists of photos taken by Snider’s sister, Vada Snider, of 10 public installations that Snider has done over the past decade, located in Newton, North Newton, Hesston, Salina and Wichita.
Among others, there are vessels placed as finials on the main building at Nomar Plaza, an open-air market in Wichita; ceramic-tiled hallways in First Presbyterian Church in Salina; a whimsical planter in the newly opened Botanica Children’s Garden, Wichita; the broad-ranging sculpture of a “fence” with ceramic plates bearing quotations at Dyck Arboretum in Hesston; the abstract human figures of “Blue Sky,” the sculpture in Newton’s Centennial Park, and the pillars that mark the entrance plaza at Newton High School; and Snider’s latest installation, the ceramic tile mural in the James A. Will Family Academic Center on Bethel’s campus.
“Working with large public projects is different than doing pieces [for individuals],” Snider says. “There are usually few specs beyond budget and location. I have a lot of freedom to come up with ideas.
“Some can take a year or more to complete, depending on how large it is and when I come into the project. It’s always interesting to watch it come together.”
In addition, doing public art is also about “creating environments that people interact with, either passively – just walking past – or actively. Clay is wonderful for public art because it’s tactile. It doesn’t hurt it to touch it. It’s amazingly tough – there are clay pipes the Romans made 2,000 years ago that are still being used to carry water every day.”
Snider says he’s always interested in people’s response to his public art. And though he doesn’t try to make a particular statement, he does sometimes hope to create a certain atmosphere with his work.
For example, with the abstract ceramic figures outside and the ceramic tiles inside the Salina Criminal Justice Center, his hope was “to provide a benevolent, friendly feel to the building – hopefully influencing, in a positive way, the experience people have when they interact with the facility.”
The Botanica Children’s Garden planter gives one impression from the back and then, as the path curves around it, becomes a squirrel with a large, bushy tail. “I wanted to create a sense of discovery and surprise,” Snider says.
Some of Snider’s public pieces represent collaboration with others. For “Blue Sky,” Snider worked with Phil Epp, project designer, and Terry Corbett, who made the ceramic tiles. At the Evergreen Park Branch Library entrance, in Wichita, for which Snider made two large stelas, Ray Olais was the project designer and Albert Martinez the muralist.
For the last number of years, Snider has had about one public art project going at any given time. He is currently working on a donor wall, created from ceramic tiles, for Dyck Arboretum’s Prairie Pavilion (similar to the one already in the arboretum’s visitor’s center).
He called the Bethel College exhibit “Dusty Footprints,” he says, because “when you’re working with clay, there’s dust all the time” and to evoke “the journey of working on [each] project.”
For more information about the FAC Gallery or the current exhibit, contact Rachel Epp Buller at 316-284-5222.
Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2012-13 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2012-13. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.