Debbie Wagner, of Bennington, paints Tuesday morning on a portion of the 55 foot wide mural at Campbell Plaza. (photo by Tom Dorsey / Salina Journal)
from the Salina Journal Wednesday, June 16th
Artist: Painting in downtown Salina focuses on 'unique arts community'
By Tim Unruh
Until the painting became more intricate, anyone caught gawking or talking too much about Dave Loewenstein's mural was encouraged to grab a brush and join in the fun. A number of people, mostly children, have accepted the Lawrence artist's invitation to be a part of "Waiting in the Wings," a mural overlooking the Campbell Plaza outdoor stage, 125 S. Santa Fe, in downtown Salina.
"Little kids will walk by and he lets them paint, too," said Carolyn Klenda, a waitress at Coop's Pizzeria, 123 S. Santa Fe. Painting began June 8. While they wait for their orders, customers at the adjacent restaurant "stare out the windows and watch him," she said. Loewenstein is splashing the plaza with lots of bright colors and a message as well. "It's pretty cool. He's put a lot of time into it," Klenda said.
Project an extension of Festival
Loewenstein's Artist in Residence project, which involved months of research, is an extension of the Smoky Hill River Festival, said Connie Bonfy-Stewart, director of the Salina Arts and Humanities Commission. Mixed into the 13-by-55-foot mural that Loewenstein is creating with Bennington artist Debbie Wagner are reproductions of local art; children on chairs like those above the entry of the former Roosevelt-Lincoln Middle School, and ornate shapes like the artist found on the United Building off West Iron Avenue. "I'm a director, or a conductor, of many ideas," Loewenstein said as he stood high on a ladder painting a black border.
A lot of art in Salina
Local people posed for some of the mural figures, which include a violinist and a dancer. "If you look real close, you'll see a figure of a curly-haired woman that looks a lot like (Sharon Benson)," Bonfy-Stewart said. Benson is the coordinator of arts education for Salina Arts and Humanities. "The focus is Salina's unique arts community," said Loewenstein, 43.
What makes it unique is a multifaceted approach, he said, including the annual river festival that reaches a broad audience, the nationally known Salina Art Center and the Arts and Humanities Commission, which promotes arts in education. And it's all in a relatively small town. "(Salina) has more civic institutions and public celebrations than maybe some (other towns)," Loewenstein said. There is a willingness to promote artistic endeavors in Salina, with plenty of artists -- including musicians and poets -- living here.
Being paid $6,000
Using National Endowment for the Arts and Kansas Touring Artist grants, Salina Arts and Humanities is paying Loewenstein $6,000 for the mural, which includes his supplies and living expenses while in residency. He's staying in a loft apartment above Santa Fe Avenue. "The design and the title are metaphors for the education and development of individual artists, and Salina's conscious process of building and shaping the cultural community over many years into what it is today," Loewenstein wrote in his blog. Loewenstein and Wagner expect to wrap up the mural in a week. A picture of how the mural will look is on the blog.
Gets a lot of use
Campbell Plaza is a "pocket park" that was created during the "Streetscape" upgrades in the 1980s, said Phyll Klima, executive director of Salina Downtown Inc., and is used for a number of activities throughout the year. Arts and Humanities stages concerts at the plaza in the fall, she said, and it's heavily booked during the holiday season. Coop's Pizzeria occasionally uses it during the restaurant's "Open Mic Nights," Klenda said. "We have a lot of different organizations and bands that use it for performances," Klima said. There is no charge to book Campbell Plaza. To make reservations, call Salina Downtown, 825-0535, a minimum of two weeks in advance.