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Hays artist finds home on the range

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

The rich history of Kansas comes into sharp focus through Dennis Schiel's Kansas state historic mural, which will be featured during Friday's Hays Arts Council Summer Gallery Walk from 7 to 9 p.m.

Colorful Kansas characters fill the mural, which evolved for Schiel throughout the last three years and 70,000 miles traveling the state. From Smokey Bear, who originated in Herndon, to astronauts and politicians, Schiel's vision came together from reading Kansas history books and listening to accounts from local historians.

Spending more than 2,500 hours painting and more than 400 hours researching Kansas history, Schiel also spent countless hours fundraising to bring the project to fruition.

"I've met so many people," he said. "It's been a great project."

Set on the backdrop of a map of Kansas, the mural represents more than 300 subjects, including significant forts, universities, artists, American Indian tribes, animals, historical figures, military, public servants, movie stars and, just for fun, Wizard of Oz characters.

"People spend hours and hours looking at it," Schiel said. "People of all ages."

The 16-by-8-foot mural will be on display at the HAC for two months. Beyond that, Schiel is unsure where its next stop will be. The Kansas Cosmosphere and Eisenhower Museum have expressed interest in displaying the work, but Schiel envisions it on display at the Kansas State Capitol.

"I'll be meeting with the governor after it's done being shown there (HAC) and show him and see what his thoughts are," Schiel said.

Friday's gallery walk, Kansas Summer Celebration, also will showcase a collection of more than 120 works presented courtesy of Topeka's SouthWind Gallery.

The collection originally included 150 pieces and was developed by the SouthWind Gallery last year to celebrate the Kansas Sesquicentennial.

The display includes original works by artists, some highly trained and others self-taught, from Kansas and throughout the U.S. Mediums used include oils, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, encaustic, mixed media, fiber and photography.

Other attractions to look for during Friday's Gallery Walk include:

Hays Arts Center, 112 E. 11th

* "Kansas: The Artistic Perspective," Kansas State Historic Mural by Dennis Schiel

Hays Public Library, 1205 Main

* Pastels by Kathleen Hoff-Harvey

Singers, 114 E. 12th

* Performances by Heartland Community Theatre

Nex-Tech Internet Solutions, 210 E. 12th

* "Sound of Silence" photography by Fred Hunt

Madd Matter Frame Shop & Gallery, 112 E. 11th

* Works by Local & Regional Artists

Café Semolino, 110 W. 11th

* Paintings by Aaron Krone and live music

Hays Arts Center Annex, 1010 Main

* "Pressing Issues" FHSU Monotype Printmaking Workshop

* Exhibition under the direction of Gordon Sherman

* Photography & Paintings by Bruce Burkholder

Kris Kuksi Fine Art, 807 Main

* "Plains Fascination: Artifacts of Rural Decay"

the MFA photography exhibition of Brian Gilligan

Moss Thorns Gallery, FHSU Rarick Hall

"Generational Convergence" MFA exhibition by Leslie Falcon

Native American Dance performances at 7:30 and 8 p.m.

Special exhibition hours:

Bank of Hays, 27th & Hall -- 2 to 4 p.m.

Paintings by Jack Nicholson