COLBY — Western Plains Arts Association celebrates the organization 50th anniversary with our Fiftieth Anniversary Show, Sunday, Feb. 16 at 3 p.m. Central. Board member musicians and affiliate area individuals and groups will perform at the Cultural Arts Center in Colby. Presentations will include highlights of providing performing arts programming to our rural area since 1970. Admission is free for everyone who wishes to attend. Reception following.
Fifty years has enabled up to four generations of family members to enjoy just four performances in the first full season to more than 15 programs in recent seasons that generally run from September through May.
Moreover, the price for a season adult ticket is only $50 and student tickets only $15, thanks to generous support from area foundations and public arts entities, Colby Community College and area school districts, and numerous businesses and individual sponsors. Area newspaper and radio stations regularly provide in-kind promotion throughout every season.
Board presidents for the 50th Anniversary Season are Wilma Mai, Sharon Springs, whose term ended Feb. 1, and Marilyn Meier, of the Rexford-Hoxie area, who as elected president Feb. 1. Longtime Executive Director is Pat Ziegelmeier, of the Gem and Colby area, who is also a music faculty member of Colby Community College.
Board member and past president Amie Kendrick, Colby, shared a brief written history of Western Plains Arts Association in the Winter 2020 WPAA newsletter.
In March of 1970, Ron and Peggy Frahm and their young family had moved back to Colby, where Ron was practicing law. Vaughn Lippoldt, Choral Director at CCC and Mary Mayta, local private dance instructor, came to Ron, asking him to draw up Articles of Incorporation for Western Plains Arts Council. Because of the interest in promoting the council, he was elected their first president in August 1970. Marion Woofter served as secretary and Thelbert Boyd became treasurer.
A board was then formed from area people representing Thomas, Logan, Rawlins, Cheyenne, Sherman, Decatur and Norton counties. After a successful fall 1970 membership drive, the organization reported funds of $2,895. This gave the organization’s resources to hold four performances during the first 1970-1971 season. Ron helped sell tickets at the door for people to attend the performances.
The small board busied itself increasing membership to fund performances for the 1971-1972 season. Area interest in the performing arts was enriched greatly by the erection of the Performing Arts Center at Colby Community College, later called the Northwest Kansas Cultural Arts Center and Frahm Theatre. The building was spear headed by Dr. James Tangeman, CCC President and consistent supporter of Western Plains Arts Council.
For much of the organization’s history, board members have also come from Gove, Sheridan and Wallace counties, in addition to the original counties represented. Norton County has not participated for many years.
Members of the Frahm family and Colby Community College have continued every year with generous memberships to the Western Plains Arts Association.
Approximately a decade ago, funding from public arts agencies, such as the former Kansas Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts has declined significantly. In the last few years, however, WPAA has been awarded public grants for some qualifying programming through the Kansas Department of Commerce Creative Arts Industries Commission, the Mid-America Arts Alliance and the National Endowment for the Arts.
In recent years, Dane G. Hansen Foundation. Logan, and the Greater Northwest Kansas Community Foundation-Dane Hansen Community Grants for Logan County and Thomas County, Bird City, has provided generous grants to enable WPAA to provide more than 15 quality programs every season. Other present leading benefactors are: Gustaf and Hannah Applequist-at Greater Salina Community Foundation, Salina; Frahm Farmland, Inc.-Lon Frahm, Colby; the Garvey Texas Foundation, Fort Worth, Texas; and the Seele Foundation, Colby.