Topeka Gallery director Paul Dorrell typically likes to give himself six months to mount a show involving 65 works in paint, glass, steel and even oil on sheet rock by artists from across the state.
But he had only seven weeks to put together his latest exhibit at the Ramada Hotel and Convention Center in downtown Topeka because it's part of the festivities leading up to Monday's inauguration of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and other state officials.
Sebelius' inaugural committee sponsored four days' worth of events in four communities as part of a "Best of Kansas" celebration. Most precede the ceremony at 11 a.m. on the south steps of the Statehouse, in which Sebelius will take the oath for her second term and give the inaugural address. The events will be paid for with ticket sales and private contributions, which by law are limited to $2,000 per donor.
The task for Dorrell, a Kansas native who founded the Leopold Gallery in Kansas City, Mo., was showing off the diversity and vibrancy of art in Kansas. He expects the exhibit to demonstrate that the state's art doesn't begin and end with traditional prairie landscape paintings and hopes it will stimulate corporate interest in patronizing artists.
"It was my intent since the day I was hired to put a new face on Kansas arts," he said while preparing the weekend's exhibit. "From the layman to the professor, from the construction worker to the connoisseur, I want them all to have something to say 'Wow' at."
Sebelius' inaugural committee also was hoping for a bit of "wow" for the festivities, setting up events with different themes, some costing $75 a ticket, but others free for families.
Events began Thursday with a "Kansas All-Stars" celebration at Wichita State University before a basketball game, and the party drew about 270 people. Sebelius and other officials honored sports figures, including track champion Maurice Green and former Kansas State University football coach Bill Snyder.
Events continued Saturday in Garden City, with a celebration for families that included dancing troupes and ethnic and western Kansas food. Families also will be the focus of a "Main Street" festival at the Topeka Ramada today and a separate black tie-optional party in Overland Park.
The last of the events is the traditional inaugural ball Monday night, though the Sebelius committee is breaking with tradition and setting up food stations around the hotel so that guests can mingle and prominent Kansans will be in rooms and interact with visitors.
And there's the art exhibit put together by Dorrell, which includes a multicolored glass sculpture hung from the atrium and a large clay vase outside the main exhibition space. Dorrell also including art from high school students in Topeka and Wyandotte County.
There are landscapes, as well as a portrait of a tattooed biker with a shaved head, rendered in oil paint over Sheetrock dotted with screws, a work by Wichita artist Patrick Duegaw. A jury picked the works on display after Dorrell contacted galleries, universities and arts centers across the state.
"We kept our eyes open for all kinds of different works - the unexpected; in some cases, the provocative; and in some cases serene," Dorrell said. "The state, if it's known for art, is known for conservative, representational art, and that's not accurate at all."