Art is universal. It speaks to different people in different ways, but in any of its glorious forms it has profound effect.
For that effect to take place, however, there must be exposure.
Hays, America, is blessed to have an active art community. From instructors at Fort Hays State University to the budding students, from the many sculptors, painters, musicians, actors, et al who make Hays their home to the myriad companies and institutions that proudly showcase local talent, from the state’s oldest arts council to the brand new home of the community theater, from the Broadway-caliber Encore Series to the enormously popular art walks, there is no shortage of art to experience and enjoy.
Hays also has perhaps the state’s best champion, interpreter, curator and artist herself rolled into one person running the local arts council. Brenda Meder, in full glory Friday evening during the Fall Art Walk, will celebrate 25 years as the Hays Arts Council’s executive director next month.
The milestone is worth noting, primarily because Meder won’t tout it. She might never be at a loss for words, but those about herself generally are self-effacing. Most times she is praising the accomplishments and efforts of others, building excitement for the next 14 projects she’s working on, or simply continuing her efforts as an economic development machine bringing life to the downtown district.
Meder will be the first to credit other staff, her board of directors and members of the council for the success of HAC.
“I have nothing but the utmost respect for the people that worked diligently to establish this organization and to get the building,” she told The Hays Daily News last week. “I feel proud that we as an organization we’re able to maintain that legacy.”
What the community needs to understand is how that legacy is maintained. With an annual budget so shoestring, most would be surprised the doors remain open — let alone remain a thriving operation. Meder’s commitment to her passion almost forces her to work well beyond an eight-hour day or a five-day week. She is rewarded with the joy seen on the faces of those who are engaged with a craft or merely enjoying a performance.
Of particular pleasure to the highly energetic Meder is getting youngsters exposed to the arts.
“That is really, really important to me. That is critical,” she said. “Now we work with 12 elementary schools in five towns across three different counties. If you’re not cultivating your next generation of art appreciaters, consumers, artist and patrons, how can an organization like this stay strong?”
Meder has been doing her part for 25 years. When you see her next, take time to thank her for all she’s done to improve the community. Better yet, thank her and then either become a member of the Hays Arts Council or renew at a higher category. Anything you can do to reduce this director’s worries about HAC’s finances will allow more focus on what she does best — instilling a love of the arts in both young and old alike.
We appreciate everything Meder has done to ensure the arts flourish in Hays.
Patrick Lowry is editor and publisher of The Hays Daily News.