BRANTFORD (AP) — Audrey Kalivoda often takes back roads home to Washington County and instantly renews her love for Kansas.
Cattle getting fat in rolling, grass-blanketed pastures, and small, quaint towns loaded with local art and folks eager to please and recapture the eye and heart of this photographer and videographer from Nashville, Tenn.
“We just don’t realize what our great state has to offer,” said Kalivoda, 55. The native of a farm near Brantford in southwestern Washington County — her parents, Jim and Ramona Kalivoda, still live at the farmstead — Audrey said the state’s beauty is obvious.
Kansas deserves more than references to the “Wizard of Oz” movie and characters Dorothy and Toto, she said, pointing to a quarterly national magazine, Adventure Road, that gave her home state a mention earlier this summer with a picture of the ball of twine in Cawker City.
“Of everything we have to offer, there’s that damn ball of twine in Cawker City. It’s a little thing, and it’s fun, but that’s all we can find?” Kalivoda said. “We’ve got so much more to see.”
She scoffs at portrayals of Kansas as a flat piece of land that has to be crossed by tourists before reaching more interesting attractions.
Kalivoda is out to change those perceptions with her new video, “Kansas: The Center of it All.”
She recently spent time in her home state, capturing video and still photographs and doing Kansas research.
The 35-minute video, set to be released Dec. 1, will focus on four elements — geology, history, wildlife and what to see and do throughout the state.
Kalivoda plans an opening video Dec. 2 at Bergen’s Studio & Gallery, 320 N. Santa Fe, during Salina’s First Thursday Art Rush.
“Audrey has family here, and she’s home to see the family quite often,” said Richard Bergen, the gallery owner and a well-known sculptor. Kalivoda was a student of his while she attended the former Marymount College in Salina. She completed an English degree from there in 1976.
“She’s an interesting young lady, a dedicated Kansan,” Bergen said. “We’ll have some of her tapes playing.”
The new video should be well-received, said Richard Gould, administrator at Pawnee Indian Museum State Historic Site, eight miles north of U.S. Highway 36 on Kansas Highway 266 in Republic County.
“I’ve never seen (a video) that’s for sale that talks about the whole state and lists what we have to offer,” Gould said. “Audrey really gets down into the nitty-gritty, does her research really well.”
Contrary to some negative tags, Kansas has an interesting and varied landscape, Kalivoda said, from the rolling hills formed by glaciers in northeast Kansas to the Arikaree Breaks, an expanse of canyons 15 miles north of St. Francis in extreme northwest Kansas. Her first film in Kansas, “Kansas Canyon Lands,” was released in 2006 and was centered on the Breaks.
“There’s a quote about how the mountains and oceans speak to you,” Kalivoda said.
But in the prairie, she said, it takes more time.
“You have to sit and listen to it, and let it talk to you,” Kalivoda said. “Slow down and look around you.”
Her latest Kansas video homes in on “the people who were here first” such as the Kansa and Pawnee American Indian tribes.
“There’s a little bit about the immigrants, the Czechs, Swedes, Germans and French,” Kalivoda said. “We’ve got a diverse group of people who have come here.”
The video won’t ignore Kansas’ stake in the Civil War, or the acts of abolitionist John Brown.
“The Civil War covered such a region and stretched so far west,” she said. “I don’t want to dwell on negatives. I just want to share.”
Kansas should celebrate its “breadbasket” status, Kalivoda said, and much more.
We have a lot of art
“Something that really impresses me with our state is the artwork we have,” she said. “In Wichita there are sculptures on every corner and art deco bridges. There’s the Grassroots Art Center in Lucas. We just have some amazing art around the state.”
The videos will cost $19.95 and be available at Bergen’s gallery and at Kansas Visitor Centers and other retail outlets around the state.
“What’s so important about this latest project is it’s for out-of-state and in-state tourists who don’t really realize what we have to offer,” Gould said.
Kalivoda attributes her love and understanding of Kansas to her parents, who traveled the state often when she and her younger sister were children.
“I’ve got creative and interesting parents,” Kalivoda said. “They molded the way I think about Kansas.”