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Still teaching: Art teacher creating art center near Halstead

Chad Frey
The Kansan
Retired art teacher Beth Vannatta of Halstead continues to sculpt on her farm, which she is donating to a nonprofit to create an art and nature education center.

Beth Vannatta of Halstead has never stopped being an artist or art teacher. Even after retiring from a career as an art teacher, she has continued to hone her craft as a sculptor. Her work is regularly found in area art galleries. 

And then something happened to Vannatta — she entered her 80s. The retired art teacher started thinking about when she could no longer live in her farm at 14001 W. US-50 highway in Halstead.

"For years I have done artwork, I taught. Teacher's organizations often get me to come and teach. I have all of these tools. all this artwork, and I am not going to last forever," Vannatta said. "It is all going to disappear. What is this going to mean to anyone at a sale? I would like this to be an art and nature center."

For the record, Vannatta will turn 83 this spring. 

By art and nature center, she means 48 acres of property once used as a farmstead along US-50 along a creek that feeds into a small lake at Spring Lake RV Resort. 

"There is such a find wilderness out here that would be perfect for, also, nature classes," Vannatta said. 

As a result, the Springdale Art and Nature Center has been born.  

Springdale Art and Nature Center is Vannatta's vision for her 48 acres to educate and teach people about stone carving, metal sculpture, ceramics and jewelry making. She also plans nature trails and education. 

Vannatta enlisted the help of some friends, and has formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit she is gifting the 48 acres, upon which her home stands, to the organization.

Beth Vannatta is converting her home and farm into a art education center near Halstead.

Springdale Art and Nature Center has received a matching grant for $10,000 to build the first classroom.

"My studio was a two room chicken house plus a smaller storage room with a basement for cooling the eggs, it is a good sized building and very sturdy," Vannatta said. "I also built on an open coal shed to it. We are planning on enclosing that as a third room. That is our plan right now."

Also in the plans are trails through the trees near the creek, with nature classes as well. The plan is to open the center to the public in 2022. 

The Springdale Art and Nature Center sits on more than 40 acres, with a brook running through it.

Though the center has not yet opened, its first art exhibition is. A group of 15 artists came together this year to create the exhibit, some learning the craft of printmaking for the first time. The exhibition, a fundraiser for the center is currently on display at the Carriage Factory Gallery, 128 E. 6th St., Newton. 

The exhibition will move from the Carriage Factory Gallery in Newton to Hutchinson in February before heading to Sterling College and Bethel College before returning to the Carriage Factory in the fall. 

All of the prints can also be seen at the Springdale Art and Nature Center website, located at artopens.org.

The Carriage Factory Gallery is open from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

The center has created a GoFundMe page, with a $20,000 goal, located at www.gofundme.com/f/springdale-art-and-nature-center.

Beth Vannatta is gifting her farm to a nonprofit she created — the Springdale Art and Nature Center near Halstead.