The walls of the Hays Arts Center galleries were bare Monday but in just a matter of days will be filled with 150 works selected for the 36th annual 5 State Photo exhibition. The juried photography exhibit is part of Friday’s Hays Arts Council Winter Art Walk that includes 26 locations.

HAC director Brenda Meder said the show’s juror, professional photographer John Finch, has selected what will be a great exhibit, stepping in for Blair Hayes, a photographer and filmmaker who was originally scheduled to judge the contest.

Hayes had let Meder know he might have a scheduling conflict with an upcoming commercial he was to direct, and, although he and Meder tried to make it work, he had to drop out.

“He had made sure I knew that, but we had been staying in touch all along,” she said. “He felt so bad about it.”

Finch, a retired studio photographer who then focused on fine arts photography, judged the photo contest in 2017. Meder said she prefers to have judges wait a few more years before they return to the 5 State, but Finch was able to step in.

Of the $1,500 in prize money, Finch broke it down to a $200 top prize and three $100 prizes for each of the three categories, plus 14 juror’s merit awards.

“He just had a lot of pieces that he really, really liked,” Meder said.

In his juror statement, Finch said it was a complicated process to select 150 works from the more than 300 that were entered.

“As a juror, my task was to narrow down from all the entries to a select amount of work that illustrated a finished representation between concept and execution,” he said.

He started by first viewing all the works as they had been displayed for the public exhibit Nov. 14-16, then began the task of narrowing them down the following Monday.

The 5 State Photo exhibition will be on display at the HAC through Jan. 29.

The remainder of the art walk will include a variety including student works, fiber, ceramics and performing arts.

“You’ve just got a little bit of everything,” Meder said.

The 26 locations is the most a winter art walk has ever had and includes four locations at Fort Hays State University and Professor’s, 521 E. 11th, as a new venue this year. The usual “official” time for the winter art walk has been extended a half hour as well, starting at 6:30 p.m. rather than 7 p.m., Meder said.

“There’s so many good places and I thought if I make the core time two and a half hours, maybe more people will be able to get more visitors,” she said.

Thirteen of the venues will be open extended hours with their exhibits or performances, and 11 will also show the exhibits Saturday.

For a complete list of the art walk venues, see or