A valuable painting the Salina Public Library chose to sell from its collection, which was ultimately donated to the City of Salina after being purchased at auction, is now on display.
According to the Smoky Hill Museum, the 1921 oil painting “Smoky River,” by Lindsborg artist Birger Sandzén, is now on display in the Museum’s gallery.
The painting was accepted into the City of Salina’s public art collection by city commissioners during the December 11, 2023 meeting. It was a donation by the Karen Hale Young Family, who acquired “Smoky River” from an auction house after the Salina Public Library decided to part with the painting earlier in 2023. Just prior to the October auction, a petition signed by over 400 individuals emphasized the local importance of retaining the Sandzén paintings and helped inspire the family to help. The auction website indicates this painting sold for $120,000.
“Salina Arts & Humanities is thrilled to be trusted with this important gift,” commented executive director Brad Anderson. “The Smoky Hill River was the catalyst for Salina’s founding, and having this painting as a record and reminder of the beauty of the prairie and dedication of early citizens to the arts is an inspiration for us all.”
The donors had the specific intent of honoring the women who coordinated the original purchase of the work in 1921 by contributing the Sandzén to the City’s public art collection managed by Salina Arts & Humanities, a department of the City of Salina. They also wanted to recognize the strong commitment to the arts made by the citizens of Salina. The donors requested that the painting be publicly displayed.
“It is an honor to have this important painting hanging in the Smoky Hill Museum’s gallery,” said museum director Susan Hawksworth. “Smoky River” shows the beauty of this region and is a testament to the grandeur of this land that inspired the first peoples to this area.
“Smoky River” is displayed in the Smoky Hill Museum’s entry gallery, providing secure access, proper lighting, environmental controls, and supervision. The museum, equipped with motion-sensitive alarms and video surveillance, assures the painting’s safety. The museum, located at 211 W. Iron Ave, is free of charge and open Tuesdays through Fridays 11-5 and Saturdays 10-5.
Future plans for the painting include transport to Denver-based conservation specialists within the next 12-18 months for minor restoration and reframing, with funds provided by the donor.
Periodic inspections by Arts & Humanities staff will ensure proper maintenance, with potential outside specialists consulted only in unique circumstances.
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Photos via Smoky Hill Museum