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L.A. artist adds eye-catching art

10/12/2009

By RYAN CHRISTNER

By RYAN CHRISTNER

rchristner@dailynews.net

The weather might have been cold, wet and dreary this weekend, but there was at least one colorful sight in downtown Hays, courtesy of a wandering visitor from sunny California.

Targeting the city for one of her "cross country random acts of flowers," Los Angeles artist Andrea LaHue stopped here Friday in search of a suitable canvas on which she could render a large floral mural.

After a bit of searching, she found one in the Schwaller Building at Ninth and Main.

"I wanted to brighten people's day during this poor economy," LaHue said as she put finishing touches on her painting of a golden sunflower and blue delphiniums.

She began her artistic adventure Oct. 4, traveling the country's tangle of highways on her way to the East Coast and back.

This was not her first time in Kansas.

A self-proclaimed "Army brat," LaHue was born in Europe. Her family later returned to the United States and for one year -- LaHue said memories of her childhood are categorized not by specific years, but by grades, and in this case sixth grade -- lived in Leavenworth.

She was inspired for her journey after a previous coast-to-coast trip following the death of a family member.

Coming back to L.A., she began to paint on buildings in her neighborhood.

Having seen the worsening state of the California economy, and thinking about the vast expanse of land between the coasts, LaHue decided to take her work on the road.

"I want people to go back and look at what our country is," she said. "It's so beautiful, and we don't drive it anymore, we fly it."

After stopping in Hays, LaHue began a search for her next painting. She stopped in Augustine's Bakery and chatted with an employee, who suggested she contact Henry Schwaller.

"I love art. I love public art," Schwaller said Friday afternoon. "Anything we can do to make downtown Hays beautiful, I'm for it."

Schwaller said he was unfamiliar with LaHue's work prior their conversation that day, but a quick look at her Web site and blog made the decision to approve the project very easy.

"Obviously, you're hesitant when someone says they want to paint on your building," he said.

As he suspected, though, the result was quite pleasing.

"It looks great," Schwaller said.

After departing Hays, LaHue revisited Leavenworth, where another vibrant sunflower now can be found.

LaHue's "random acts" can be followed through the daily updates of her Web site -- www.aLaHue.com -- and blog, andrealahue.wordpress.com.