The history of art in the Atchison community cannot be explained without acknowledging the contributions of the Atchison Art Association. The Atchison Art Association was established in 1966 and has left an imprint on the community in many ways. The founders of the association wanted a better understanding and appreciation of art in Atchison.
Over the years the association came together, but it was not until 1970, when the association partnered with the Muchnic Foundation to exhibit works of art, that local and regional inhabitants started noticing Atchison’s artistic treasures.
Jennifer Tufte, Muchnic Gallery Director, is responsible for Muchnic’s local exhibitions and tours. The Muchnic family has supported the Atchison Art Association since its inception. Currently, Nan Muchnic is a member of the board of directors.
“It’s wonderful that a member of the Muchnic family is so interested in the arts for Atchison,” said Deborah Geiger, executive director of the Atchison Art Association.
Membership was a problem with only 20 members until 2012 when Geiger joined the Association as Executive Director.
She said she wanted members to bring in new ideas and with a new board, the association experienced a rebirth.
“The excitement is contagious,” Geiger said. “We saw a natural change in the board and they gave more time and enjoyed doing more projects. We have people on our board who have been with the association for over 30 years and they feel refreshed.”
Geiger said the association finally realized it needed an identity that the community as a whole could recognize.
“Part of the rebirth must have been when we focused on meeting people on their terms instead of expecting them to come see us at Muchnic,” Geiger explained. “how do we serve and enhance the life of the community through art, we realized we had to establish our identity.”
The association also realized that it needed to educate the community about its mission. The association has adopted the following statement,
“Through education, outreach, and exposure, our mission is to provide access to the arts and avenues for artistic expression in the Atchison community and throughout the region.”
Geiger said that while the association had made an impact on the community, she struggled to create a legacy for the association with a nagging question, “How can we stand tall?”
Without an answer on the spot, she received a phone call from a lawyer representing a former member who wanted to leave an endowment to the association.
The lawyer did not tell her the amount of the endowment, but informed her that she would be responsible for how the money was going to be spent. The attorney emphasized that whatever is chosen should honor and align with the values of Darrell D. Schmitt.
Geiger was both amazed and somewhat worried, but wanted to take on the challenge. The Atchison Art and Cultural Center was born out of this challenge. Geiger hired Christy Harris as the center’s director.
Finding a location was no easy task, but the property just north of Maria’s Mexican Restaurant was purchased and demolition of the interior began. The undertaking has been an arduous task full of setbacks, but the end of construction is near.
June 2, 2022 is the soft opening and will be in honor of Darrell D. Schmitt with an exhibition called Dinner with Darrell. More information will be available soon on the opening.
For more information, please visit the Atchison Art Association website.