The Kansas Humanities Council
Turning Points Short Film Project
1965 and the Formation of the Hays Arts Council
*The premier of this Hays Turning Point film will be held on October 17, 2014 at the Robbin’s Center.
6:30 PM Reception
7:00 PM Film Premier
7:30 PM Panel Discussion with Mayor Schwaller and Dennis Schiel
What is a “Turning Point”?
From the original request for proposals: “A Turning Point is an idea, event, action, or moment in time that directly or indirectly causes decisive change in a community. This change can be social, cultural, or economic but one that ultimately, in some significant way, affected your community’s way of thinking or doing. A Turning Point often occurs when members o f a community introduce something new or respond to something beyond their control. Community Turning Points can be light-hearted or serious, positive or negative.”
Application and Selection
In the summer of 2013, the Hays Public Library submitted a proposal to the Kansas Humanities Council requesting that the community of Hays be selected as the subject of a short film. In total, four communities would be selected from around the state who demonstrated that their communities underwent a significant “Turning Point” within the last fifty years. The Hays Public Library determined that the formation of the Hays Arts Council in the mid-1960s was a significant Turning Point for the community.
Hays, Kinsley, Olathe and Ulysses were selected as the four Turning Point film communities.
The Hays Turning Point Story
In 1965, Harold Palmer – the band director at Fort Hays Kansas State College – expressed disappointment in attendance at a winter band concert while talking to Vivian Meckel – the owner of Hays Music Company – over a cup of coffee. It was during this conversation that the idea of a local arts council began to form, leading to more formal meetings in 1966.
This chance meeting over coffee not only paved the way for the Hays Arts Council, but it was also instrumental to the development of the Kansas Arts Commission. In 1966 it was Vivian Meckel, who was also a local representative in the Kansas State Legislature, who introduced legislation to establish and fund what became known as the Kansas Arts Commission.
It is widely accepted that the Hays Arts Council was the first community arts council in the state of Kansas. In 1967, the first group of local organizers adopted official bylaws and were incorporated with the state arts commission.
Despite incorporation with the state, the Hays Arts Council still had an uphill battle due to the lack of a permanent building out of which to operate. Through fundraising and hundreds of volunteer hours, the arts council was able to purchase and renovate a building at 112 E. Main Street in 1976. They moved into the building in 1977.
In the 1980s, businesses began moving away from the downtown in favor of more commercial spaces along Vine Street. This trend continued through the 1990s. Downtown Hays was the embodiment of struggling middle America with empty storefronts and a nearly abandoned Main Street. The Hays Arts Council, however, persisted in the downtown while neighbors moved away. In many ways the Arts Council has been an anchor in the downtown and even a cornerstone of the revitalization effort which began in 2000.
The power of the Hays Arts Council lies in its transformative ability. The Arts Council has not only sustained itself and met its goals for nearly 50 years, but it has changed the way Hays looks, and feels and responds to the arts. Everyone in Hays is exposed to and benefit from the work of the Arts Council. Through theater and dance, Famous Figures and Art Walks, the Hays Arts Council touches the lives of so many and has transformed a city entrenched in history into a thriving cultural oasis.
When the Hays Arts Council began in 1965 there was no precedent to follow, no funding and no building. Everything the council accomplished, they accomplished through a sheer force of determination and will power. That same spirit exists today.
Filming for the Hays Turning Point film took place at the end of April and coincided with the HAC’s spring Art Walk. The film crew captured some amazing interviews and footage. Darrel McGinnis, John Thorns and Brenda Meder were among those interviewed for the film. Each of these people played or continues to play a critical role in the story of the Arts Council.
This project is supported by the Kansas Humanities Council, a nonprofit organization promoting the humanities as a resource for all Kansans. For more information, visit www.kansashumanities.org.
Link to KHC Turning Points website:
Link to Hays Arts Council website: