Beach Museum uses regional art, technology

Hannah Heger, Trending Editor


With its staple bright orange, blown glass Chihuly chandelier hanging from the ceiling, The Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art has been an important part of the local community, providing individual experiences for anyone who walks in the front doors.

“The collecting focus of the museum is regional,” Linda Duke, Director of the Beach Museum said. So that means we’re not going to go out and try to get a Rembrandt or Michelangelo, we’re always looking for art that’s about this region, or was made by people who have some connection. Maybe they weren’t born here, or maybe they only visited but if they did something significant about this area.”

Providing opportunities for Manhattan residents to visit and learn about the artists who have some form of a connection to Kansas, the museum gathers many works with the hope of expanding the local culture. 

“Even though our focus for building the culture is regional, our exhibitions or public programs can be anything,” Duke said. “So we really think a lot about bringing the world to enhance and giving people opportunities to see things that, you know, otherwise they’d have to drive to Kansas City, Chicago or St. Louis.” 

With the opportunities to educate locals, the Beach Museum challenges their visitors with a new way to think about something should be.

“This is the one that’s maybe more surprising to people… because we do a lot with the idea that when you look at a work of art and wonder about it, like even if you know nothing and you’re just like ‘what the heck is that?’ You are exercising your brain in a way that’s kind of important,” Duke said. 

Being able to understand and figure out a personal meaning behind artwork is an important part to the art experience.

“The important thing about art is that it’s almost always complicated and ambiguous, you wonder about it,” Duke said. “And that’s what it’s like on the edges of science or complex social questions or history or anything, so I feel like art museums are really, I sometimes call them mental gymnasiums, because I think you can do a mental workout. And it’s actually fun just walking around looking at stuff talking about it if you come with a friend.”

To provide the challenge needed, the Beach Museum is working in collaboration to provide an exhibit called Four Worlds, which will provide a new technological exhibit for next year. Demonstrating the best of paleolithic technology, a video will be played edited to show countless high resolution photos of technology used over the ages.  

“In our world that technology is creating we are learning more things visually. You know, we can see microscopic things that we didn’t use to be able to see. We can see deep space that we didn’t used to be able to see we can see data represented visually,” Duke said. “I see that as part of the museum’s work as we were talking about the thinking and looking skills …We need to have confidence in dealing with technology. “
After helping the Manhattan community expand the local art scene and the knowledge needed to understand, at the end of the day the Beach Museum is a fun place to offer a unique experience to every visitor.

“You can just walk around and look at the stuff you’re interested in. I mean, it’s just a place for what I would call lifelong learning, and pleasure your time learning,” Duke said. ”It’s kind of a place for learning. As really, I mean, I know sometimes when you’re in school you think of learning is work. But I think as you get older you realize that earning new stuff is actually one of the funnest things in life.”