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Topeka's art community

By Susen Foster

The capital city of Kansas is known for embracing new ideas like the Google Fiber experiment and ongoing revitalization and renovation around the city. The art community is one such area that has flourished, with help from Washburn University's Mulvane Art Museum, ArtsConnect and Chords & Oil, and the state.

"Topeka's art community has seen a surge of interest and support from both the city and its residents," said Olivia Simmons, president/CEO of Visit Topeka, Inc. "We're excited to see this move toward beautifying the community because where art flourishes, communities grow and prosper. VisitTopeka is proud to support local artists and the growing art movement in Topeka."

A classic example of the worldwide attention being garnered by Topeka is the recent gift of the 16-foot-high Chinese Lantern Light--a sculpture by artist Master Ye Yushan--commemorating 30 years of diplomatic relations between China and the U.S. This amazing work of art resides temporarily on the Washburn University campus. In two years it will be moved to its permanent location in downtown Topeka.

The June 15 dedication included notable speakers such as Jerry Farley, Washburn University president; C.J. Wei, president of the Kansas City Chinese American Association; Guoqiang Yang, consul general of the Chinese Consulate in Chicago; and several dignitaries from China. The event made global news. Yahoo! China devoted an entire page to Topeka and its reception of the Lantern Light.

Washburn University is no stranger to the art world. The campus is strewn with thought-provoking works of art, including giant stick hut buildings, many statues and neon-colored sculptures of people. The campus houses the renowned Mulvane Art Museum and hosts the Mountain/Plains Art Fair every summer, where artists from across the nation bring their art to be sold and judged.

Renovations are under way creating the North Topeka Arts District, which will be within the historic North Topeka business area. Studio space, galleries and outdoor art are planned for this thriving Riverfront area. Internationally known Earthworks artist Stan Herd has already reserved studio space.

The Capital District Project has similar goals as they work to attract new businesses and make the area more vibrant through the addition of entertainment and public art. Incentives are being offered to artists willing to move their studios to NOTO. Assistance in moving expenses, studio rent subsidies, general business start-up expenses, Mulvane Art Fair exhibitor fees, and other exhibition expenses are some of the prospective perks.

Simmons says, "The goal is to make NOTO the premier place in the country to create and display art at a price that is easily affordable for the artists."

Meet your friends in Topeka for ArtsConnect's First Friday Art Walks where more than 20 locations showcase photography, sculpture, jewelry, paintings, mixed media and performance art. A little food, a little wine, and make this a late-night adventure. Go toVisitTopeka.com for more information about NOTO and Topeka, Kan.

Editor's note: Susen Foster is the owner of Greater Success Advertising. She is the author of numerous travel books. Susen can be reached at www.greatersuccess.com or call 580-622-5408.

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