Manhattan Arts Center brings fine arts opportunities to students, community


The sound of a hammer banging against nails echoed through the entryway to the Manhattan Arts Center as Kelly Yarbrough, graduate student in fine arts, hung one of her drawings on the wall. Yarbrough is one of many students to present her work at the center.

Yarbrough hung pieces that were part of the K-State Art Graduate Exhibition. The exhibition, which runs March 5-26, had its opening reception on March 4 in the Manhattan Arts Center.

“We’re required to have a group show every year in the spring semester,” Yarbrough said. “We also have a Graduate Students of Visual Arts organization, and we try to do shows outside of campus as well.”

One of those outside shows is a master’s of fine arts thesis exhibition created by Heidi Schaaf, graduate student in fine arts. Schaaf’s artwork consists of 3-D sculptures and will be on display from April 1-16 in the Manhattan Arts Center.

“I asked them in the summer about having my show here, and we just worked from there,” Schaaf said. “They’ve always been really receptive.”

Schaaf said she thought it was important for a smaller town like Manhattan to have a community arts center. She said she believes in the Manhattan Arts Center’s mission, “Arts for all,” and likes how young people can get involved.

“We really want everybody to feel welcome here, to feel comfortable coming in and feel excited about it, anything that we can do to promote that is great,” Kim Belanger, education and marketing director for the center, said.

Getting members of the community involved in the arts could look different for each person, depending on their interest, Belanger said. The center offers the chance to view the visual arts through gallery shows, watch various theatre productions and listen to live music from local musicians.

“I went to (the center’s) high school experimental program over the summer,” Schaaf said. “I had never been to any experimental theatre. For (those students) to be able to be 16 and be able to participate in that, I think is really great.”

Theatre productions of various kinds were one way students and members of the community could get involved. A few K-State students are involved with the Manhattan Arts Center’s upcoming April production of “Chicago: The Musical,” in both onstage and offstage roles, Belanger said.

Community art studios and art classes focused on clay, paint or fibers also provide a learning opportunity and chance to create art, Belanger said. Outreach programs play an important role at the center as well. One of the programs they sponsored and helped coordinate was the Young People’s Concert Series at K-State.

“We invite student groups from the elementary schools to go to All Faiths Chapel and see a concert,” Belanger said. “It’s normally professors or students giving the concerts. There’s an educational component to that where they stop and they explain how the music can sound differently and maybe what the instrument is called.”

By offering so many different options to get involved with the arts, Belanger said she believes anyone could find some form of art they enjoy doing.

“The (Manhattan Arts Center) seems so open to the possibilities of creating opportunities and new relationships and collaborative projects,” Yarbrough said. “I would say to people who have an interest in the arts and want to get involved, come get involved here.”