Thursday, December 6, 2012
Two pieces of Wichita history are now back on display after a 60-year absence.
Murals painted in the 1930s by former Wichita artist Felix Jones are the center of a new exhibit at the Kansas Aviation Museum. The murals once graced the atrium of the Wichita Municipal Airport terminal, the building that now houses the museum. The paintings have been in storage since 1952.
"About four years ago, I learned that we actually had these paintings in our possession and we began plans at that time to create the exhibit," said Lon Smith, Kansas Aviation Museum director.
The exhibit features the murals, painted for Wichita's post office, but rejected by the federal government.
"They were funded by the National Recovery Administration, which was coming under attack for being socialist at that time," Smith said.
Little was known in Wichita about Jones, but Smith found the artist's daughters living in Colorado.
"We knew about it years and years ago, but we just assumed that they had been destroyed," said Judy Gardner, one of Jones' daughters. "I mean, it's been I don't know how many years and we had no idea that they even existed."
Gardner and her sister, Lidanne Sandberg, saw the murals for the first time this week when they arrived in Wichita for the dedication of the new exhibit.
"We had tears in our eyes because they were so meaningful and so beautiful and so well-executed," Sandberg said.
Of course, the museum's goal is for the murals and other works by Jones to be on display for the public for longer than the murals were hidden away.
"And we'll all be back again because Lidanne has a son and I know he'll want to see it," Gardner said. "My son comes in on Saturday and he's going to meet with Lon (Smith). He was so close to my dad."
Jones' daughters say they will never forget the unexpected honor their father is now receiving in Wichita.
"It's a Christmas present that you will never, ever forget," Gardner said. "Every time Christmas comes around, that's what we'll think of."
"They say when you get married and you have your children; this is the third-greatest memory," Sandberg added.
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