Lindsborg, Kansas

Lindsborg, that’s where I live. A small Swedish community in central Kansas. I’ve heard that visitors from Sweden often declare Lindsborg more Swedish than modern day Sweden itself. I can believe it.

One of Lindsborg’s claims to fame is their focus on art and artists. In some ways, Lindsborg is a haven for reclusive artists. There’s great respect for an artist’s creative habits and quirks, even when there’s a spotting in a downtown coffee shop. It’s okay to engage in conversation with them, even ask about their latest renderings, but don’t talk too long.

The Red Barn Studio in Lindsborg, Kansas. The home of Lester Raymer's legacy. 

The Red Barn Studio in Lindsborg, Kansas. The home of Lester Raymer's legacy. 

Two such artists who chose Lindsborg during their incubative years have left a valuable legacy that is celebrated with museums, artist workshops, and many beautiful works open to the public.

LESTER RAYMER

One is Lester Raymer, who produced his work in Lindsborg from 1945 until his death in 1991. Following a degree from the Chicago Art Institute and establishing himself as a renowned artist in Oklahoma where he lived for a time, he moved to Lindsborg after marrying Ramona Weddle, a Lindsborg native. They lived in a hotel owned by Ramona’s parents, who gave them two vacant buildings as a wedding gift—a laundry building and a barn. Raymer converted the laundry building into a home and the barn into a studio. The barn is today’s Red Barn Studio, the public view and center of his legacy.

Raymer’s artistic gift was his eye to transform ordinary things into extraordinary visions. Whether for drawings, paintings, carvings, printmaking, sculpture, pottery, or jewelry, he knew where to find what he needed to complete his project, most often among others' discarded, mundane objects. In 1960, he began making gifts for Ramona, 53 in all. They remain popular with his admirers today. At first, they were traditional items—jewelry boxes, creches—but he soon turned to making antique toys for her. A puppet was the first. Most featured moving parts, such as a carousel. The grandest might have been Noah’s ark, complete with carved animals—more than 35 pairs.

Lester Raymer's toy gift for his wife. This Noah's Ark has at least 35 pairs of hand-carved animals.

Lester Raymer's toy gift for his wife. This Noah's Ark has at least 35 pairs of hand-carved animals.

BIRGER SANDZEN

A second artist in Lindsborg’s heritage is Birger Sandzen. A gallery in his honor is a popular place for art exhibits and performances as well as an extensive display of his oil paintings, prints, and drawings.

Sandzen Art Gallery, Lindsborg, Kansas, featuring Sandzens' oils, prints, and drawings, as well as work of many other artists. Home for musical performances, as well.

Sandzen Art Gallery, Lindsborg, Kansas, featuring Sandzens' oils, prints, and drawings, as well as work of many other artists. Home for musical performances, as well.

After being raised and educated in Sweden and France, Sandzen began teaching at Bethany College in Lindsborg in 1894, where he remained for 52 years. The Smoky Hill Valley River area provided subject matter for many of his landscape paintings. He adopted a thick, textual, impasto style of painting. His work has been compared to Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cezanne. He received numerous honors and honorary doctorates during his years in Lindsborg, as well as recognition for promoting cultural relations between the United States and Sweden. The gallery on the Bethany College campus featuring his work was dedicated in 1957.

Lindsborg Middle School students presenting their personal writing at the Sandzen Art Gallery. A Sandzen oil painting provides a lovely backdrop.

Lindsborg Middle School students presenting their personal writing at the Sandzen Art Gallery. A Sandzen oil painting provides a lovely backdrop.

Becoming acquainted with either of these artists and viewing their honored works is reason enough to come to Lindsborg. But, there’s much more to share about the beauty and charm of living in this quiet, ethnic community. Look for more later.