Rural Mural Art “In the Wind” to begin this summer in Vesper

The Vesper Community Center, an all-volunteer run and staffed organization, is having an outdoor mural series of art scenes painted around the exterior of the facility this summer. After making substantial updates to the interior of the facility, efforts are underway to make the exterior of the building and grounds more vibrant and attractive for weddings and other event uses. As part of this strategic goal, a large mural artwork is being commissioned this summer to create a new point of interest art-eco tourist attraction to bring visitors into the center and through the county.

Volunteers are needed Saturday July 8th from 8am to noon to help power wash the building and do some other cleanup. Lunch will be provided. Every hour of volunteered labor for the mural project this summer helps provide a necessary “match” that is required for some of the State grant money that is making this project possible. Other “in kind” donations can also be counted. The artist will be spending the greater part of 7 to 8 weeks working and living at the community center. If anyone would like to donate a dessert, meal or local restaurant gift certificate, a meal train sign up calendar has been posted on the website on the Events/In the Wind Mural page.

When sources of art funding were sought for the large mural project earlier this year, Kelly Gourley from the Lincoln County Economic Development office suggested that the community center apply for two competitive grant programs offered by the State. Vesper’s applications were very well received, and funding has been awarded from both the Kansas Department of Commerce Office of Rural Prosperity Rural Mural program and the Kansas Department of Commerce Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission Mural & Public Art program with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Along with community center donations, Dane G Hansen has provided a substantial grant to help fund the project and provide some of the necessary matching funds. The mural project is also receiving funding from the Strategic Economic Expansion and Development (SEED) program coordinated by the LCEDF.
Through in person surveys at community center events, artwork ideas have been solicited from the community. A Kansas artist has been chosen, Matt Miller of Hays Kansas to paint a circa 800 square foot mural that will wrap around the 15 to 20 foot high west and south facing metal clad exterior sides of the building. The mural / artwork, entitled “In the Wind” will show how the wind has played a vital role for the citizens since the county’s founding. The selected theme of the artwork will be wind energy and how wind has powered life, supports the environment and economy, and supports positive growth in the community. The mural art will include wind turbines from old water drawing models dating back to the county’s founding, to the current megawatt energy producing wind farm that now dominates the entire southern landscape of the county today. Some of the mural scenes will include images of wheat, sunflowers, the Kansas flag, which was designed by Hazel Avery of Lincoln KS, Vesper baseball and its mascot, and limestone objects that have historical and cultural meaning for the community such as post rock and the Vesper school. Sketches will be available for viewing in July with the work to begin later in the month.

Wind energy has benefited Lincoln County residents. Hundreds of modern large scale wind turbines now dot the landscape all across the southern half of the Lincoln county along I-70 which can be seen from the community center. The wind farm operators make substantial voluntary payments in lieu of taxes to the county and schools and a portion of these payments fund a Wind Economic Benefit fund (WEB) which provides grants to the schools and area non profits as well as county infrastructure projects. The community center has been a recipient of WEB grants. The chairs and tables inside the center, kitchen appliances, television screens, emergency equipment and other improvements have been paid in substantial part with WEB grants.

Mr. Miller, who has a B.F.A from Fort Hays State University and a B.A History of Art from the University of Kansas, has participated and won numerous awards at local art exhibitions throughout Kansas and has painted murals in other communities including the “Brush the Bricks” indigenous tribes and the “Dragon and Tiger” murals in Hays, KS and the welcome mural in Stockton KS, For Vesper, rather than a strictly traditional rectangular painting, there will be a series of connected scene/objects that will come out from around the building and wrap around the west and south exterior walls large enough to be seen from the road, but with details that can also be appreciated up close.

Public viewings and “meet the artist” exhibit events will happen later this summer as the mural scenes take shape and are completed. The first “meet the artist” event will be during the Farmers Market on Thursday August 3rd and will feature some of Mr. Miller’s work inside the facility and include Q&A sessions and a mural tour. Student artists or any artistically minded community members who are interested in helping the artist in August or September should contact the community center. Mr. Miller will also be having an art exhibition at the Lincoln Art Center in 2024.

The Vesper community center is located off a paved road right off of the K-18 “Scenic byway” that connects with Lucas and is not too far from Wilson which are both well known for their outdoor art exhibits and enjoy a lot of art and eco tourism. One goal of this large scale art project is to add Vesper (and Lincoln County) as a destination tourists visit when they are visiting other art sites in Wilson and Lucas, Hunter or other murals that have recently been commissioned. The mural work in Vesper, when completed will be one of the largest outdoor pieces of art in the area.

Making the Vesper Community Center more vibrant and attractive is part of the strategic goal to bring more events and find more uses for the facility and grounds. Vesper only has a population of 65 people, and is upwards of 10 miles away from the county’s two main population centers of roughly 1100 and 300 people, but the facility often draws as many as 300 or more visitors in a month between it’s community bingo, rental events, public meetings, farmers and craft markets and memorial day meal.
Since a portion of these grants will need to be “matched” with volunteer “in kind” labor, and volunteers are needed this summer to help with landscaping, mowing, pressure washing the exterior walls of the building, scraping and painting the merry ground, moving the outdoor awning, and other prep work around the exterior of the building this summer. Some of the projects also require skilled labor and may include installing solar powered lighting around the building, (a lift will be provided) and installing a ground mounted sign. If you or your business can volunteer/donate any service or time please contact the community center. For more information about the facility’s programs and services, to sign up for an event, rent the facility or volunteer, go to or call 785 524 2466.