Salinans have praised the arts for generations and lately
their government has increased the arts as a mission. The
list of public and private organizations that promote and
recognize beauty in its many forms is more than impressive,
including a symphony orchestra, community theater, a River
Festival, museums, a small university, an arts cinema, and too
much more to list here.
The City’s enthusiasm has evolved recently as an invest-
ment in public art, an invigorating display of sculpture and
other art installations around the town. Predictably, people
have complained; they don’t like the art, it’s too expensive, a
waste of valuable public funds.
What rot. A town without art is a place without a soul, and
Salina is certainly not that. The City is right to invest public
funds in the arts. It’s a simple matter of sharing a resource,
recognizing that it adds to the color, the texture, the look and
feel of a place.
Lindsborg has long dedicated resources to the arts because
they have been fundamental to the city’s settlement, its
growth, its many passions. The arts are essential to any com-
munity that values beauty.
FOUR YEARS ago, as the governor and his crowd of legisla-
tive cretins began to dismantle the Kansas Arts Commission,
Lindsborg offered a brief series of public meetings in an
attempt – futile, as it turned out – to prevent this crime.
Eradication, we said, scoffed at our heritage, our culture,
and, yes, our economy. The governor, showing his usual
keen eye for budget matters, rattled his abacus and declined a
seven-figure truckload of matching federal grants; the money,
without a state arts commission, bypassed Kansas for other
states whose Legislatures believed the arts were important.
At that Lindsborg meeting it was noted that the arts are
very much an economic development issue. Many people, for
example, have moved to Lindsborg because of the arts.
We see the arts in the way a place looks (its homes, its
shops, its streets); how it acts (its grace, its turn of mind);
how it worships (the message, its music); and in the way it
fosters a gentle, modest embrace of beauty, in so many forms,
as essential ‒ if not instinctive ‒ in a community that is more
liveable, not just lived-in.
As a dollar-and-cents matter, the arts are an employer, they
encourage tourism, and audiences. They put men, women
and students to work. They bring people and their friends and
children to a town.
FOR LEGISLATORS in Topeka, the arts are no longer at issue.
When it came to the budget and the arts, meatheads ruled. But
in Salina, McPherson and Lindsborg, and other communities,
the arts are alive and well, if fund-challenged. They are not in
the least spirit-challenged.
Look at these places. They’re hard at work making things
brighter, better, more pleasing – in public improvements, in
workshops, in shows, in concerts and lectures and in celebra-
tions of all shapes, sizes and intention.
For one example, The Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery
has opened the 117th annual Midwest Art Exhibition, an iconic
event in national art circles and the oldest annual art exhibi-
tion in Kansas. The Exhibition runs through April 19, folding
around the 134th annual Messiah Festival, presented Palm
Sunday through Easter Sunday.
Messiah Festival highlights include a performance of Jesus
Christ Superstar, and Bethany Oratorio Society performances
of Bach’s Passion According to St. Matthew on Good Friday
and Handel’s Messiah on Easter Sunday.
This eight-day music and art festival has been a Lindsborg
tradition since 1881. Music and the visual arts have been at the
core of life in Lindsborg since Swedish-American immigrant
pioneers settled the community in 1869 in the Smoky Valley.
In one slice of a month, a moment in time, here at once is the
commercial value of art, and the chimerical – fanciful, vision-
ary, imaginary – value of beauty.
It has a price – and no price. What Plato said of music can
be said of the arts:
“Music is moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to
the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to
life and to everything.”
Our settlers knew that this lay in the bedrock of their faith,
the seed of their determination, the origin of love, the very
core of reason and perseverance.
Why can’t we?
Our Post Offi ce, its people
always a treasure
“Due to safety issues within the building, effective Sunday,
November 9, 2014 we are temporarily moving our operation
to the Salina Post Office, located at 211 E. Ash …”
Black mold had been found in places enough that caused
alarm. The cleanup had begun and customers with mailboxes
soon discovered the pleasures of collecting their mail out-
doors, mostly in sub-freezing temperatures while leaning into
the teeth of a raw north wind. This went on for two months.
An inconvenience for customers, sure. The drive to Salina
for parcels or other special mail, through the holidays and their
heavy loads of mail, soon lost its novelty. Friends, neighbors,
colleagues pitched in to fetch mail for those who otherwise
couldn’t. Other not-so-random acts of kindness sprouted here
and there as the days became weeks.
And what of the postal workers? Every day out in that
bleak north lot, wind-blown and facing a line of gritty boxes,
their metal gray and cold, the locks frozen, each little door a
special challenge. This at times with rain coming in a steady
drizzle or, on better mornings, the driving lashes of sleet, or
snow stinging with each gust of wind. Yes, the postal workers,
whom we know by first-name, enjoyed special tortures then.
But they continued, stopping to help a customer fumbling
with his key, or the person who had forgotten it, or the sev-
eral who had forgotten which belonged to what. And always,
always with a smile. These people, burdened with uncertainty
and belted with brutal weather, managed mail delivery in our
town with efficiency, courtesy and the patience and manner
Our postal workers deserve every accolade, and more.
THE BUILDING itself, now amidst the clamor and clatter of
a massive downtown renovation, is a treasure. The flower
bed at the front is winter-bare but we look up, above the
great door, to a clerestory, its painted flowers along the frame
and panes. Inside, magnificence in limited space: The old
wood, polished; the heavy, high writing tables; the etched
and frosted glass in doors that say Janitor, and Postmaster.
On the west wall above the oak of the Postmaster door, the
striking Sandzén mural, Kansas Stream. Past the framed teller
windows, a small alcove holds the rows and stacks of drawers
with raised numbers and boxes with tiny windows, keyholes
at the ready. Here are walls of wood and brass, buffed, speak-
ing of times ago when things were sturdy and complete and
The building has been with us since 1936. Outside a brass
plate near the door notes that it is on the National Register
of Historic Places. A stone inlay in the brick planter tells us
the officials responsible then, in 1935: Henry Morgenthau,
Secretary of the Treasury; James A. Farley, Postmaster
General; Louis A. Simon, supervising architect; Neal A.
Melick, supervising engineer.
It stands gallant and solid at Second and Lincoln, still
active, still crucial. More than once we have wondered how to
wrestle large boxes that had been sent to us, and without miss-
ing a beat a postal worker would carry them outside and place
them in the car. It’s a pleasure, they say, always in a way that
tells you they mean it. They smile and hurry back inside.
The pleasure is ours. By the look and feel of it, this build-
ing and its people are as vital and valuable as ever, still quite
– JOHN MARSHALL