Artist donates photos, poetry, artifacts to Kansas hometown

? Writer and photographer Gordon Parks’ work is finally coming to his eastern Kansas hometown.

Parks is donating a collection of his work photographs and poems valued at $100,000 to the new Mercy Health Center, which opened two months ago.

It will be Parks’ first exhibit in Fort Scott, about 60 miles south of the Kansas City area.

One work in particular a poem titled “Homecoming” reflects the peace the black author and photographer has made with the town where he was born in 1912, and where he learned to face racism at an early age.

Ken Lunt, president of the Mercy Health Center Foundation, announced the gift earlier this week. The foundation will dedicate the exhibit in honor of Parks’ parents, Sarah and Andrew Parks, who are buried along with his siblings in the Evergreen Cemetery in Fort Scott.

“The new health center is the perfect venue for this collection, as more than a thousand people enter the front doors of Mercy each and every day, allowing more individuals the opportunity to view the work of one of our most famous citizens,” Lunt said. “We envision this collection will also serve as an attraction for visitors to our community.”

A self-guided walking tour brochure will be developed to allow tourists as well as patients to enjoy the collection and learn more about Parks.

The donation includes 18 black-and-white photographs, eight color photographs and five poems. Future plans include expansion of the collection to include more of his recent works.

The display of the collection is scheduled to open in early November, with a dedication and open house planned for Nov. 9.

Born into extreme poverty in Fort Scott in 1912, Parks was one of 15 children. At the time of his mother’s death, Parks moved to Minnesota to live with his sister.

At the age of 16 Parks bought his first camera and began his career as a photographer. From the 1940s through the 1970s, Parks’ work covered the major themes of each decade for Life magazine, capturing the attention and recognition of the world.

For several years, Parks also covered the Paris fashion shows for Vogue magazine.

As his fame grew, so did his desire to expand his talents into writing books, poetry, songwriting and filmmaking.

Parks’ first film, “The Learning Tree,” was filmed in Fort Scott and focused on his childhood there. Parks went on to direct the 1971 film “Shaft.”

Still actively working at age 89, Parks released a new book in September titled “A Star For Noon.” The book is accompanied by a compact disc of his own compositions.