Four large oil-painted murals from Bank of the West have been donated to the Barton Community College Foundation. The murals by artist Pat Potucek were moved to the college’s Shafer Gallery on Wednesday.
Site Manager for the Great Bend branch Sara Seller said the decision was made to donate the pieces instead of trying to sell them so local residents could continue to enjoy them.
“We wanted to give back to the community because that is very important to us here at Bank of the West,” she said. “Barton is very active in the community and we knew that they would be preserved and displayed properly for the community to enjoy.”
The murals were painted by Potucek in 1974 as an act of charity to be displayed in the “Prairie Room,” which was a room available to the community for holding events. All the canvasses were hung on the wall prior to the creation of the landscape murals, which reflect almost a mirror-image of many towns and cities in central Kansas. Potucek was a regional artist from Hutchinson who was known for her large, colorful murals. Before her passing in 2011 at the age of 86, she had created more than 250 murals, many of which are still displayed in different locations throughout the region.
Though leadership at the bank has come and gone over the years, the murals have always been maintained as part of the bank’s décor, Seller said. Part of the donation agreement stipulates that the collection will never be broken up or sold so that their legacy can continue.
“They represent central Kansas so well, and they are a great thing for the community to see,” she said.
Shafer Gallery Director Dave Barnes said the Shafer Gallery is an ideal place to showcase the impressive murals, which span almost 22 feet total in width and stand over 7 feet tall.
“They are a wonderful example of ‘Midwest Regionalism,’” he said. “It will be a real joy to show them in the gallery.”
Barton Foundation Gallery Director Darnell Holopirek said the Foundation was excited about the donation.
“They are very unique and we feel like they are something that will really add value to our collection,” she said. “We will have the opportunity to showcase them to a lot of people in the Shafer Gallery, which is a great venue.”
The murals will be part of the next Shafer Gallery exhibit and will have an opening reception from 1-3 p.m. Sunday, June 3. Music, refreshments and a gallery talk will be provided.
Holopirek said the Foundation will be having a special reception for Bank of the West employees and corporate personnel later in the summer as well, and commemorative plaques will also be made to identify the donation.
“We are very thankful for the generosity of the bank, and we are excited to show our appreciation,” she said.