PEABODY – This Memorial Day, Peabody residents were honoring not only veterans, but also the community’s legacy through the on-going preservation and restoration of the Sunflower Theater on Main Street.
Monday afternoon, residents had the opportunity to chat with mural artist Stan Herd and enjoy a spudnut made by Marilyn Jones.
Jones, who was selling the Oklahoma treats outside the theater, said the secret is a good roll dough recipe and a cup of mashed potatoes.
“When I was in college in Oklahoma, Gary won a fryer,” she said. Jones was using that same fryer on Monday afternoon for her homemade spudnuts.
“They’re not a really sweet dough at all. But they do have mashed potatoes in them. They stay moist that way.”
While residents enjoyed freshly fried treats, artist Stan Herd shared his thoughts and vision for the Sunflower Theater Helianthus mural project.
Herd said he had connections to Peabody through Susan Mayo and their mutual involvement in the arts in Wichita.
“I see this as part of the prairie renaissance, the whole Midwest, and the middle of the state, tall grass prairie country, has this art thing happening,” he said.
Herd has “always been aware of Peabody,” growing up in Protection, he would pass through the community on his trips home.
“When I heard they had this cool theater, I thought I’d pop in and see what’s going on. I just gravitate toward what they are trying to do,” he said.
Herd is best known for his large, earthworks projects. He uses crops, landscaping and natural elements to create massive art pieces spanning acres of land.
“When we first heard of this, I had a piece of land at the edge of town, and I thought he could do one of his big earthwork things,” said Jones.
However, the logistics and location of Jones’ property posed major obstacles.
“I’m kind of overwhelmed with earthwork images here and around the U.S. and maybe even overseas,” said Herd.
The Helianthus mural proved more manageable for the artist.
“As I spread out into other parts of the world, it’s always important for me to keep my touch on Kansas,” he said.
While Herd said he has “outgrown” murals, the project was the best fit for Peabody, “I like the spirit. It’s me spending my time to keep connection with Kansas. In this interim period and at my age, let’s do something we can wrap our heads around and get the community involved and get young people involved and make it a cause celeb.”
Herd said public art projects have a unique way of bringing communities together, and give small communities an identity.
“We are trying to build a place where young people want to stay. A lot of these small, rural areas are losing young people to larger cities; nightlife, excitement, business opportunities and all the amenities that are out there. We want to do something really cool in a small town so they will stick around and put their energy back into the community. That’s how you keep a small community bound,” he said.
Herd, a dedicated student of Vincent van Gogh, said he has long been inspired by sunflowers.
“I came up with a quick sketch for it, and wanted a reproduction of the Sunflowers painting, and areas at the top and bottom where the community can get involved,” he said.
Herd, as a nationally-known artist, said his work is what continues to inspire and motivate him.
“All we artists, musicians, writers, poets and filmmakers are trying to get the attention so we can do the next deal and create art that makes us feel alive. When I’m creating and designing, it makes me feel alive and it raises my belief in humanity and how we all work together to make something of beauty.”