As with many creative ventures, the inspiration for Lawrence's annual Art in the Park festival was drawn from a couple of unrelated events by its founder, Joyce Schild.
A friend's pun and one of her own painting ventures were all Mrs. Schild, Rt. 5, needed for the idea for an art show in 1962. That idea has evolved into Art in the Park, which is observing its 30th anniversary on May 5.
Mrs. Schild, an artist who tries to produce a water color painting each week, said the seed for her idea was planted when one of her artist friends, Helen Garrett, once joked about her work, "I want to be hung before I die."
Then in January 1962, Mrs. Schild was outside painting a water color of her house on New Hampshire Street "and people would come up and they'd say, `Do you know I paint? Do you know I like to draw?,' all day long. Then I got to thinking about Helen and all these people, and I thought, `Why don't we have an art show?"
MRS. SCHILD'S next step was to call Wayne Bly, who was the director of Lawrence Parks and Recreation, for guidance with her idea. She soon learned the first lesson of projects nothing is as simple as you think it is.
"I said, `How 'bout an art show,' and he said, `Sure,' and I said, `Gee, thanks,' and I was going to hang up and he said, `Get some people together and come on down to see me,'" she said.
Bly told Mrs. Schild and a couple of friends at their meeting that they needed to form an art guild, which they did on the spot by announcing what offices they held. Then Mrs. Schild called "everyone I could think of" in an effort to recruit entrants and worked furiously for almost four months to set up the show.
DESPITE HER husband's admonishment of "Don't ever start anything again," her work paid off.
In the first show, then called the Lawrence Art Festival, more than 140 people entered their works at the Community Building.
Mrs. Schild recalled that the building was lavishly decorated for the festival. The decor included potted plants, a large tapestry and "miles of strings and truckloads of cement blocks, and they did all kinds of exciting things that would lead you around the place. I mean, the show was much better than the art."
The festival was held inside the building again in 1963, but was outgrowing its confines with 160 entries. The next year, under the direction of Jean Dykes, the festival was moved to South Park, where it remains today. The event now attracts from 8,000 to 10,000 people to weave their way through the exhibits at the park.
MRS. SCHILD, who will exhibit some of her water color paintings this year for the first time in a few years, said she was happy with the way Art in the Park has evolved.
"Well, it's kept going, which means it must be fulfilling something," she said. "It's a community thing the town is interested. A lot of people come year after year after year, it's just something they do."
One reason Art in the Park is successful, Mrs. Schild said, is that it brings people together.
"You really need to show your work, not just work on your own," she said, taking the artist's view. "No matter what it is you're doing, you need someone to enjoy it with you. And the people do enjoy it."
The spirit of the show, she said, is the memory she takes from the event.
"EVERYBODY IS happy and everbody's feeling good," she said. "It's a good feeling. I think people come there to enjoy.
"It's old home week. Everybody comes by and sooner or later you see a lot of people you know."
An Iowa native, Mrs. Schild has bachelor's and master's degrees in art education and has taught art from kindergarten to college. In 1950, she moved to Lawrence with her husband, Alvin, who was a professor in the School of Education at Kansas University. They now live on the south side of Clinton Lake, and their property has been certified as an official "Backyard Wildlife Habitat" by the National Wildlife Federation.