Student's artwork in special exhibit illustrates, educates on watershed pollution

This year’s Bachelor of Fine Arts Exhibit at Fort Hays State University will have an eco-friendly feel to it. That’s because 10 canvas panels depicting the Smoky Hill and Big Creek watersheds will enhance the public’s understanding of watershed pollution. The exhibit’s opening reception is from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, in the Moss-Thorns Gallery of Art in Rarick Hall, room 102.

The panels will eventually hang in the Watershed on Wheels, a car trailer specially fitted to transport and showcase the artwork. Kansas State Research and Extension watershed specialist Stacie Minson envisioned a mobile display that could travel across the state, educating the public on the causes of water pollution. The Watershed on Wheels (WOW) is the first ever watershed project of its size.

Minson enlisted help from Dr. Bob Stephenson, associate professor of agriculture at FHSU. Stephenson, in turn, invited other departments to share in Minson's vision. Four departments -- Agriculture, Technology Studies, Art and Design, and Communication Studies -- have been working since fall 2008 to make Minson's vision a reality.

Amy Schmierbach, associate professor of art and design at FHSU, asked drawing major Chris Thummel, Hoxie senior, to illustrate the panels using his narrative comic book style.

Thummel said that throughout his life and during his studies at FHSU, he developed an interest in the way mankind affects the environment.

“We need to protect our water supply because it is a basic necessity. The seemingly insignificant everyday choices we make can cause unforeseen problems down the road,” Thummel said.

Thummel spent about half his time researching and the other half sketching. With water pollution expertise provided by the Kansas State University Research and Extension Center, he worked to create a realistic view of pollution sources along Big Creek and the Smoky Hill River. The creek and river eventually flow into Kanopolis Reservoir.

Those problems are the focus of the WOW project.

Thummel drew all the pictures, following the guidelines provided by K-State Research and Extension, picked the colors and made last minute alterations to the drawing. He also helped paint the panels along with more than 75 other individuals.

Conservation and the environment aren’t foreign to Thummel, who grew up on a farm. His interest in art began at age 5 while sitting in his father’s lap watching him draw. Mad Magazine, comic books and the large murals painted during the 1930s inspired him to pursue a career in art and influenced his style.

Thummel’s work has been showcased at several exhibits: the FHSU Student Art Show 2008; The End Art Show/Student Group Exhibition; and the Drawing Students Group Exhibition. He was the scholarship award winner in the 2008 Student Art
Show and received an FHSU mini-grant award in 2009.

His wife is a photographer who assisted him with the final panels. Thummel plans to both teach art and exhibit his own work.

The panels will be on display from Nov. 13 through Nov. 30.

Minson can be contacted at (785) 650-1282. Schmierbach can be contacted at (785) 628-4245.

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